Monday 22 July 2019

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

‘Tell your sons and daughters to cure cancer, not become hedge fund managers’

‘Tell your sons and daughters to cure cancer, not become hedge fund managers’

Too many bankers, financial experts and insurers spoil the economic broth, writes economist Mathijs Bouman. Imagine a country with too many plumbers. It’s not simply a question of a lot of plumbers; there’s literally one on every corner. The plumbers have united in powerful associations of plumbers. Towns and cities vie for the association of plumbers’ HQ. The expenditure of the big plumbing firms spawn thousands of small service companies. The sector creates jobs, taxable income and forms an essential... More >


New rules for returning art stolen by Nazis are not always fair

New rules for returning art stolen by Nazis are not always fair

Dozens of works of art in Dutch museums may have been ‘acquired’ by the Nazis during WWII when their owners were coerced into selling. And if museums can claim a looted work of art is central to their collection, the heirs of those pre war collectors may be left empty-handed, warns lawyer Gert-Jan van den Bergh. ‘Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard must have known that what they were buying was stolen by the Nazis,’ former journalist Cees van Hoore said... More >


The cool self-employed don’t demonstrate

The cool self-employed don’t demonstrate

More people than ever are self-employed, a logical result of the crisis and the tax breaks accorded to them. But more needs to be done for those who barely subsist on their earnings, writes professor Erik Stam. One in six working people in the Netherlands is self-employed, usually as a zzper (literally: an independent worker without personnel, DN). According to the Netherlands institute for social research SCP, 15% of this group lives below the poverty line. It’s a problem that... More >


It is not done to drink expensive wine in the land of being normal

It is not done to drink expensive wine in the land of being normal

In the country where senior civil servants ride bikes, not being ‘normal’ and drinking expensive wine was the downfall of MP Mark Verheijen, writes DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe. The loss of VVD parliamentarian Mark Verheijen came at a somewhat inopportune time for the party – just days ahead of the launch of the provincial election campaign. But, after weeks of media pressure, the MP has done the decent thing and stood down. As long as there are doubts about his... More >


Expenses claims must be checked before they cause unnecessary fall-out

Expenses claims must be checked before they cause unnecessary fall-out

Where people work hard, mistakes will be made, writes Annemarie van Gaal. Some three or four years ago MP Mark Verheijen, then a member of the provincial government of Limburg, made a mistake in his expenses claim. He entered five or perhaps six chauffeur-driven trips from Limburg to the Randstad for functions unrelated to his job. That was stupid, granted, but during that same time he probably worked hundreds or perhaps thousands of unpaid hours as well. A flawed expenses... More >


V&D’s private equity owners fail to show business acumen

V&D’s private equity owners fail to show business acumen

V&D is tired and looks as if it’s fighting a losing battle. And its owner isn’t helping, writes Jan Maarten Slagter. At the end of the 1980s, V&D was struggling to shed its tired image. Then, as now, shopping at the store was not a pleasure but a necessity: you were out of socks, or you needed a pencil case. They had all you needed but nothing that made you dream. The management of V&D realised this and in a... More >


Amsterdam city council as pimp

Amsterdam city council as pimp

Amsterdam city council has plans to set up and run a number of brothels itself – where women can work in the sex industry out of free will.  Christian Democrat city council members Marijke Shahsavari en Diederik Boomsma think the council as pimp is taking things a step too far. More and more people are beginning to realise that prostitution in Amsterdam is going hand-in-hand with serious abuses, people trafficking and oppression. Fortunately, the faux romantic air of ‘look how... More >


Super Neelie and the start-up scene

Super Neelie and the start-up scene

Former EU commissioner turned Dutch start-up envoy Neelie Kroes should show the pension funds what she’s made of, writes Mathijs Bouman. The indefatigable Neelie Kroes is off in search of innovative companies. She’s the special envoy who will lure European start-ups to the ‘StartupDelta’. The battle for the new techno giants is a global one. A recent article in Forbes identified the Netherlands as one of seven ‘start-up hot spots’ in Europe. According to the magazine our country is at... More >


Prevention is better than cure

Prevention is better than cure

Annemarie van Gaal thinks it’s time to stop criminals living off the proceeds of their criminal activities. But it would be better still to prevent crime from happening at all. Last year the public prosecution office raked in some €136m proceeds from criminal activities. It may seem like quite a lot but it’s peanuts compared to the annual estimated criminal turnover of €20bn. It still pays to break the law in this country. There are many tens of thousands of... More >


Hidden taxation threatens freelancers’ viability

Hidden taxation threatens freelancers’ viability

They say that death and taxes are life’s only certainties. For freelancers in the Netherlands, those taxes are even more certain than for most workers, writes Miriam Young. In addition to long-standing arrangements which effectively require income tax to be paid in advance of receiving income, recent tweaks to the system will squeeze billions more euros out of freelancers this year. While employees nestle in the cosy comfort of PAYE income tax, freelancers, whom the belastingdienst has selected to pay... More >


Eat up: ugly fruit & veg taste just as good

Eat up: ugly fruit & veg taste just as good

A blemish on your fruit & veg doesn’t mean it’s inedible. So why are supermarkets trying to convince us otherwise? ask Joszi Smeets and Joris Lohman. 2014, the European year against food waste, had barely come to an end when supermarket chain Plus launched a very strange ad indeed. It shows some children attacking a cauliflower with a felt tip pen and a hammer in the hope of getting the hated vegetable off the menu. Their mother walks in, see... More >


What does the infrastructure minister actually do?

What does the infrastructure minister actually do?

The once wonderful Dutch railway system seems to be grinding to a halt, KLM is fighting its corner against the French, Groningen is sinking and the mice are eating the dykes. So what is the minister doing about it all? asks DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe. Since the general election in 2012, the Netherlands has not had a transport ministry. Instead it has the grandly named ministry for infrastructure and the environment, headed up by an even more grandly named minister:... More >


‘Tax cuts should be a priority and we should all benefit from ABN Amro sale’

‘Tax cuts should be a priority and we should all benefit from ABN Amro sale’

Economists Rick van der Ploeg and Willem Vermeend think taxes should be cut from next year and a big slice of the ABN Amro flotation money should flow right back into the taxpayers’ pockets. Although it’s the government that decides on tax cuts it looks as if they will be an important election issue in the campaign for the provincial elections on February 18 as well. Last Wednesday prime minister Mark  addressed an audience of entrepreneurs in Aalsmeer, as part... More >


‘Pension funds should come clean about their costs’

‘Pension funds should come clean about their costs’

Having workers pay higher pension premiums for a lower pension is simply unacceptable, says Annemarie van Gaal. Pension funds should come clean about costs and ditch the frills. Last week the Financieele Dagblad dropped a bomb: three-quarters of the Dutch pension funds have cut pensions while premiums remained the same or, in some cases, went up. According to Pension Federation boss Gerard Riemer, it’s impossible to lower the premiums. Riemer is sorry that workers ‘are paying a very high price... More >


Tame the private equity predators, which are ruining Dutch companies

Tame the private equity predators, which are ruining Dutch companies

Labour wants a law to prevent financial predators from ruining companies, write PvdA financial experts Henk Nijboer and Ed Groot. Labour wants to eradicate the excesses of private equity, or the buy-up of company shares by investment companies for maximum short-term profit. Venture capital is needed but we have seen all too many examples which have nothing to do with real investment and innovation and everything with financial and fiscal acrobatics. Even quintessentially Dutch company HEMA is stifled by the... More >


Swapping benefits for tax is a good deal for the jobless

Swapping benefits for tax is a good deal for the jobless

Annemarie van Gaal thinks swapping benefits for a better tax deal will get people back to work and simplify an overcomplicated tax system. When Hans de Boer got the top job at employers’ organisation VNO-NCW he said the Netherlands had the potential to become the richest country in the world. Perhaps that is the case, but only if everyone does their bit and that will only happen if work actually pays. Many people on benefits don’t want to work because... More >


Dutch financial regulators should lead by example

Dutch financial regulators should lead by example

Financial regulators should lead by example, says Annemarie van Gaal, but they’re not doing a very good job. The Dutch National Bank’s Klaas Knot recently argued in favour of a paring down of the mortgage tax break or transferring the debt to box 3 which will bring the break down to 30%. Knot wants the housing market to be more ‘shock proof’. I agree the mortgage tax break should be reduced but not for the same reasons and not in... More >


Going on strike is old-fashioned and serves no purpose

Going on strike is old-fashioned and serves no purpose

Industrial action doesn’t serve any useful purpose and De Unie is right to reject it, writes Annemarie van Gaal. There has been one piece of news recently that made me smile. Chairman of union De Unie Reinier Castelein announced he wouldn’t support any strike action. Strikes are old-fashioned and serve no purpose, he said. It is better to talk. ‘If arguments can’t do the job, doing the conga on the Malieveld won’t do it either. In 2015 we will get... More >


This week’s editorials: Indonesia, taxes for the rich, rabbits and Google

This week’s editorials: Indonesia, taxes for the rich, rabbits and Google

A round-up of the best Dutch newspaper and magazine editorials this week: Death penalty Last weekend Dutch national Ang Kiem Soei was executed in Indonesia. The Netherlands recalled its ambassador and is considering other sanctions. ‘The death penalty for involvement in drugs is extremely harsh’, wrote Elsevier commentator Gerry van der List, ‘but what would the Dutch sanctions be based on exactly? If the Netherlands does not want diplomatic relations with countries that have the death penalty it would have... More >


Dutch finance minister criticises financial sector’s willingness to change

Dutch finance minister criticises financial sector’s willingness to change

The Dutch cabinet has come up with a number of measures which it hopes will  reform the financial sector and boost stability at times of crisis. But Dutch financial insitutions are not being cooperative enough in making the changes, says finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. One of the questions that kept surfacing in 2014 was whether or not the crisis was over. The economic recovery is slow but it is safe to say that we have left the acute crises that... More >