Tuesday 20 August 2019

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

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 >


Expat is meaningless. It’s time to ditch the e word

Expat is meaningless. It’s time to ditch the e word

Years ago, the word expat was glamorous and inspired a certain envy in the stay-at-homes. But now the term is almost one of abuse and covers such a wide variety of people as to be meaningless, writes Robin Pascoe. Expats, we used to think, lived in luxury with servants on exclusive estates and sipped cocktails at the club in the evening. But those days are long gone – if they ever existed in the Netherlands. Relocation packages have been slashed,... More >


Labour party woes: Aboutaleb and Asscher to the rescue

Labour party woes: Aboutaleb and Asscher to the rescue

This weekend the Labour party held a two-day conference to set itself up for the provincial elections in March. The party is seriously suffering in the polls and is on course to lose many seats. Communications advisor Ton Planken thinks Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher are well-placed to build bridges – and help Labour over its electoral slump at the same time. A surprising by-product of the wave of indignation that followed the attack on... More >


This week: Optimistic unemployed youth, hero Aboutaleb, earthquakes in Groningen

This week: Optimistic unemployed youth, hero Aboutaleb, earthquakes in Groningen

This week’s editorials were dominated by recent events in Paris, leading to both soul-searching and criticism of the Dutch government’s efforts to combat terrorism. Rotterdam’s mayor, described as a hero by his London counterpart for his stance on domestic jihadis, did not win universal praise however. Terrorism The debate on how to cope with the terrorist threat in the Netherlands was ‘a ritual dance full of big words and inconsistencies and no concrete outcomes’. Political parties are divided while the... More >


Go on strike for a higher wage!

Go on strike for a higher wage!

White collar union De Unie has just said it will stop organising strikes in support of its demands. Economist Mathijs Bouman thinks unions shouldn’t be rigid but to give up the right to strike is going just that little bit too far. Reinier Castelein is a civilised person. Dressed in banker’s pinstripes, an in-house tie and sporting the sleek hairstyle of the financial commentator, he is the antithesis of a rabid union leader. There is no megaphone in Castelein’s office,... More >


MH17: the Blame Game

MH17: the Blame Game

Could the downing of the MH17 have been avoided? Now that it has become known that the civil service had ‘official’ knowledge of the dangers of Ukrainian airspace, Christ Klep explains why the Dutch government did not acknowledge its responsibility.   And so it happened that the question of blame shifted to the Netherlands. In the wake of such a serious and complex disaster this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Was the Netherlands really completely ignorant of the risks? No,... More >


God: ‘Up here everyone calls me Charlie’

God: ‘Up here everyone calls me Charlie’

Dutch writer and comedian Youp van ‘t Hek gives his take the terrorist attacks in Paris. When the internet was abuzz on Friday morning with the news that Fidel Castro had died, my thoughts immediately went out to the murdered cartoonists: no sooner have they arrived in some hereafter or other still in shock about having been blown away for being funny than they are greeted by the sight of the Cuban dictator. What to do? A quick cartoon of... More >


Dutch papers on the Charlie Hebdo killings: ‘An attack on democracy’

Dutch papers on the Charlie Hebdo killings: ‘An attack on democracy’

The attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris dominated the front pages of all the Dutch newspapers on Thursday. The Telegraaf declared the shooting a ‘bloody attack on our freedom’. ‘Barbaric believers who want to destroy us should be fought against and removed using every available resource,’ the paper said. ‘We owe it to ourselves to defend the free word at any price. We will not let ourselves be made afraid.’ NRC.next carried a Charlie... More >


Female executive quotas: Move over men ( it’s for your own good)

Female executive quotas: Move over men ( it’s for your own good)

The discussion about the lack of women in top jobs in the Netherlands rages every year and government minister Jet Bussemaker now says quotas may end up being inevitable. Indeed, a quota for female directors would make men better administrators, says sociologist Niraï Melis If all else fails, Dutch companies should be obliged to appoint more women in the top positions, says emancipation minister Jet Bussemaker. A female directors quota automatically implies a male directors quota. And that is a... More >


Africa has more to offer the world than ebola

Africa has more to offer the world than ebola

Trendwatcher Farid Tabarki says it is time to forget Africa’s troubles and look at the opportunities the continent offers instead. I’m counting on the fact that you donated your pennies during the Ebola crisis appeal over the past weeks.  Or did you go all out and by the 2014 version of Do they know it’s Christmas? Every little helps to stop the West African epidemic. Yet all these images and initiatives put us on the wrong foot as well. Africa... More >


Blame it on the wigeon

Blame it on the wigeon

The bird flu outbreak may now be contained but that does not mean we can forget about it. After all, it is easier to blame the poor old wild ducks and geese than to eat less meat, says Joris Lohman of the Slow Food movement.   The bird flu outbreak introduced a relatively unknown danger to the public: the wigeon. This dastardly migrating bird is threatening our cheap chicken filets. The wigeon is spreading the bird flu virus, or so... More >


This week: editorials focus on health insurance reforms and the minimum wage

This week: editorials focus on health insurance reforms and the minimum wage

The cabinet crisis following the decision by three Labour senators not to support plans to give more power to health insurance companies has dominated the front pages since Tuesday evening. The dispute has, however, overshadowed another significant roll-out of government policy – social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher’s efforts to stop workers from other EU countries being exploited by companies determined to pay them less than the minimum wage. Asscher’s announcement is ‘not before time’ wrote Volkskrant commentator Raoul du Pre.... More >


Banking for the future: it’s all about reputation repair

Banking for the future: it’s all about reputation repair

Annemarie van Gaal blasts banks who sell unfathomable financial products like derivatives to entrepreneurs. Reputation repair. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I was reminded of it at a symposium called ‘Banking for the future’ held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Dutch banking association NVB. Six years after the banking crisis, winning back confidence and repairing a damaged reputation is still a work in progress. In his opening speech chairman Chris Buijink announced he was going... More >


Technical innovation requires social innovation

Technical innovation requires social innovation

A happy staff makes for economic growth so it is time that companies put some effort into social innovation, says Erasmus University professor Henk Volberda. Sending real-time videos without the aid of a satellite, a melon which goes from green to yellow in the final one-and-a-half days of ripening so growers know exactly which are ready, a substance which rice growers in South East Asia can use instead of harmful insecticides – all these are Dutch innovations. The businesses which... More >


Oil prices are down- we’re doomed!

Oil prices are down- we’re doomed!

There are a lot of worried noises out there. But what’s so terrible about falling oil prices? asks Nyenrode University’s Jan Maarten Slagter. As you may have noticed, I’m not an economist. This is possibly the reason why I’m surprised about the worried noises these experts started making when oil prices began to fall. Oh dear, it’s gone down to less than $70 – we’re doomed! Why is it a problem when one of our most important raw materials becomes... More >