Monday 22 July 2019

Opinion pieces, columns and insights into Dutch news and current affairs from key commentators

‘A second opinion court to replace court verdict appeals’

‘A second opinion court to replace court verdict appeals’

Dutch judges are buckling under a heavy workload; perhaps it’s time to change the system, writes entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal. The Netherlands is a fine country, with a fine justice system. We need to protect and nurture this system. But former Supreme Court president Geert Corstens has been warning for some time now that our judges are buckling under an increasingly heavy workload brought about by cutbacks. That makes sense, but the system itself is also to blame. In this... More >


‘The Dutch cabinet doesn’t concentrate on things that matter to voters’

‘The Dutch cabinet doesn’t concentrate on things that matter to voters’

The cabinet should prioritise issues that matter to voters, such as the rampant unemployment among the over-45s, write economists Willem Vermeend and Rick van der Ploeg. In the past few years, people’s confidence in politics has plummeted to an all-time low, not only because promises haven’t been kept, but also because the country had no less than five cabinets in the space of ten years, and, currently, 16 parliamentary parties. In addition, citizens are wondering when politicians are going to... More >


New path in The Hague is a reminder of Indonesia’s shame

New path in The Hague is a reminder of Indonesia’s shame

When Jozias van Aartsen, the mayor of The Hague, unveiled the Munirpad (Munir Path) in a quiet neighbourhood on April 14, he did more than honour the slain Indonesian human rights defender Munir Thalib, writes Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch. The naming of the Munirpad was also an uncomfortable reminder to the Indonesian government of its failure to bring to justice those who had ordered Munir’s killing on September 7, 2004. Munir’s widow, Suciwati, told reporters before she left... More >


‘Coalition partners leant so far they almost tipped the balance’

‘Coalition partners leant so far they almost tipped the balance’

The coalition partners agreed to disagree when Labour leader Diederik Samsom told a party conference his party would be leaning as far as it could to the left. At the same time, comments by VVD parliamentary leader Halbe Zijlstra showed the Dutch liberals are leaning as far as possible to the right. In doing so they almost tipped the balance, writes commentator Nicola Chadwick. The position of the current cabinet became extremely precarious this week as the two parties took 10 days to reach... More >


‘Libraries need to be closed or made relevant again’

‘Libraries need to be closed or made relevant again’

All entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal sees are empty libraries. The money spent on them could be put to better use, she writes. The Netherlands is keeping afloat lots of institutions which used to be relevant but now hardly have any added value. Take the public libraries. Every time I pass a library I see empty spaces with endless book cases. Every once in a while a lone student is sitting at a table pouring over his school books or his... More >


‘Big companies could do more to put Dutch start-ups on the map’

‘Big companies could do more to put Dutch start-ups on the map’

Big companies don’t have the guts to work with ambitious newcomers, nor do enough venture capitalists to invest in start-ups, writes entrepreneur Roebyem Anders. According to start-up Delta director Sigris Johannisse Dutch start-ups are thinking small. They have to develop an attitude or else they will never find a big investor to turn them into world players. I beg to diiffer. It’s the big companies who could do more to put start-ups on the map. Dutch start-ups are bursting with... More >


‘More women at the top? A database alone is not going to do the job’

‘More women at the top? A database alone is not going to do the job’

Education minister Jet Bussemaker is right to want more women in top jobs, but a database is not the way to achieve this, write executive search entrepreneurs Carien van der Laan and Monique de Vos. Full marks to education minister Jet Bussemaker’s wish to increase the presence of women in the boardrooms of this country. Aware of the issues surrounding the appointment of women in top executive functions, she is anxious to speed up the process. But setting up a... More >


‘Uber and its like are not hip and innovative’

‘Uber and its like are not hip and innovative’

We shouldn’t hail Uber as a model of innovative entrepreneurship. WalMart should be a warning to us all, writes Daan Brouwer. There are quite a few politicians and economists who are in favour of total entrepreneurial freedom for businesses, investors and speculators. Eager to point out the pros, any harmful long-term cons this might have for a majority of citizens are overlooked. Advocates are outnumbering objectors, that much is clear from the current trend towards low wages, the scrapping of... More >


Bureaucratic maze stifles small businesses

Bureaucratic maze stifles small businesses

The social insurance system is confusing and expensive for small firms, says entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal. Unemployment is down slightly, but with over 633,000 people out of work we are still nudging our old 1980s record. Add to this the enormous number of self-employed and entrepreneurs who, while not unemployed, are struggling to make ends meet and you realise that we are facing a very big problem. The economy is recovering but this is not reflected in the employment figures.... More >


What did our elders ever do for us? They spent more on education for one thing.

What did our elders ever do for us? They spent more on education for one thing.

What has distinguished one Dutch cabinet from another over the years? Economist Mathijs Bouman goes down memory lane. Last Thursday Piet de Jong became a centenarian. The submarine commander turned prime minister took the helm between April 5 1967 and July 6 1971. In the year he stepped down, Mark Rutte and Jeroen Dijsselbloem went to kindergarten. Halbe Zijlstra celebrated his second birthday. Diederik Samsom was born four days later and Lodewijk Asscher wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s... More >


Insurers, start looking after patients instead of agonising over budgets

Insurers, start looking after patients instead of agonising over budgets

District nurses are hurrying from one patient to another, frantically consulting overlong checklists. Labour leader Diederik Samsom tells insurers to stop agonising over budgets and concentrate on providing appropriate care. For six months now I have been working alongside home healthcare workers on a weekly basis. I experienced at first-hand the dedication and professionalism with which they do their jobs. I also watched with bated breath the revolution that is taking place in care. The checklists and government protocols which... More >


A once liberal party is now known for money-grubbing

A once liberal party is now known for money-grubbing

It’s been a changing of the guard for the VVD since the provincial elections, but why are so many of the party’s prominent politicians involved in grubby dealings? asks Nicola Chadwick. Firstly the new minister of justice Ard van de Steur and his junior minister Klaas Dijkhof were installed. They were reportedly not the first choice as apparently a number of candidates turned down the honour. Was it because they did not want to burn their fingers on the wasp... More >


‘Turn ABN Amro into a consumer bank which will benefit society’

‘Turn ABN Amro into a consumer bank which will benefit society’

  ABN Amro is still owned by the state; it is time the government did something useful with it, write Reinier Casteleijn, Erik Hallers, Adjiedj Bakas and Wim de Ridder. Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has decided to postpone the flotation of ABN Amro for now. A wise decision, not only because of the ill-advised salary hike for the bank’s top executives but because ABN Amro should be a bank at the service of Dutch consumers and entrepreneurs. As long as... More >


Party-of-one MP is a waste of taxpayers’ money

Party-of-one MP is a waste of taxpayers’ money

As ABN Amro bankers are actually renouncing their pay rise, some politicians keep raking it in, writes Annemarie van Gaal. The installation of Johan Houwers as MP and chairman of brand new parliamentary party-of-one Houwers has come and gone. It didn’t get much coverage and the general opinion seemed to be one of complete indifference: ‘What can you do, those are the rules.’ It deserves another column at least. An expelled member of the VVD sits on the bench for... More >


‘Europeans are too chicken to enter into a free trade agreement with the US’

‘Europeans are too chicken to enter into a free trade agreement with the US’

Here’s an historic opportunity to create the world’s biggest free trade zone in the world. So why is Europe chickening out? asks economist Mathijs Bouman. The Americans are coming and they are going to poison you. They want you to eat chlorine-sprayed chicken. They also want to stick hormone-ridden cow meat in your sandwich. You will sprout horns within a week. They will force their Frankenstein food on you, made from plants whose dna is manipulated in sinister labs so... More >


Bonuses for bankers? Sure but only for those with a working moral compass

Bonuses for bankers? Sure but only for those with a working moral compass

Good bankers aren’t paid nearly enough, says Errol Keyner. Top Dutch bankers are fobbed off with a pittance these days. Yes, that’s right, a pittance. And no, I’m not looking for a job at a bank nor do I have any sympathy for top bankers. All I’m saying is that competent bankers whose moral compass is not permanently out of whack are few and far between. We want banks to develop a sustainable business model and a manageable risk profile.... More >


Local councils are getting creative: work participation through humiliation

Local councils are getting creative: work participation through humiliation

Councils are becoming creative when it comes to work participation and using methods such as humilation to make people find jobs, says economist Marcel Canoy. There is quite a creative buzz going on among local councillors in the Netherlands. Now that budgets for sheltered workplaces have been cut, lots of local councils are coming up with bright new schemes to revive them. Local councillors in Apeldoorn thought it would be a waste to let all the knowledge and skills of... More >


Don’t panic, the robots are coming

Don’t panic, the robots are coming

Robotisation is not as bad as it is made out to be, writes economist Mathijs Bouman. Against all established rules of column writing, I’m starting this one with a lengthy quote. Here it comes: ‘A new era of production has begun. Its principles of organization are as different from those of the industrial era as those of the industrial era were different from the agricultural. The cybernation revolution has been brought about by the combination of the computer and the... More >


Not registering as an organ donor will make you one, says D66

Not registering as an organ donor will make you one, says D66

People who do not register as an organ donor will automatically become one if D66 have their way.  MP Pia Dijkstra says this system will make people master of their own bodies. D66 wants an organ donation system in which the choice of every citizen is clear, not just because we value autonomy but also because we think it is up to each of us to decide what happens to our organs after death. In the present system not registering... More >


Can we please vote for something that really matters?

Can we please vote for something that really matters?

Peter Paul de Vries thinks water boards are important but he would prefer to vote for a new mayor, or the head of the national bank. And against deals with criminals. Justice ministers Ivo Opstelten and Fred Teeven have stepped down. Proof of the payment of 4.7 million guilders to drugs dealer Cees H. surfaced and both politicians were caught fibbing. Whether they meant to or not is irrelevant. All this fuss about a receipt is obscuring what really matters:... More >