Monday 23 September 2019

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

‘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 >


‘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 >