Monday 22 July 2019

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

The tax on Tesla cars is crony capitalism in the polder

The tax on Tesla cars is crony capitalism in the polder

Crony capitalism in the polder exists. Just look at the tax on Tesla electric cars, writes economist Mathijs Bouman. In the American state of Michigan you’re not allowed to buy a car on the internet. As of last year, car buyers have to use an existing car dealer. A lot of car manufacturers have dealership networks so it doesn’t present much of a problem. But there’s one make that only has showrooms and an internet shop. Electric car maker Tesla... More >


Sheer numbers force shift in Dutch government’s stance on refugee crisis

Sheer numbers force shift in Dutch government’s stance on refugee crisis

Back in April, the Dutch government almost split over the matter of what to do with failed asylum seekers who are unable or unwilling to leave the country. As tens of thousands of refugees advance towards the heart of Europe, the coalition has now been forced to find common ground on how to tackle the crisis, writes Nicola Chadwick. It wasn’t long ago that the VVD called for Europe’s borders to be closed completely to boat refugees. Parliamentary party leader... More >


Dutch minister wants to let Big Brother watch us

Dutch minister wants to let Big Brother watch us

If home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk gets his way, Big Brother will spy on us all with impunity. It’s time to ditch his draft proposal, writes journalist and internet safety expert Menso Heus. Home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk chose the depths of the silly season to offer up for ‘consultation’ a draft proposal which rides roughshod over the basic rights of every Dutch citizen: the new law governing intelligence and security services, WIV. If this proposal becomes law, the intelligence... More >


Available now: Imtech washer-uppers

Available now: Imtech washer-uppers

  The Imtech debacle and why nobody, including the supervisory board, saw it coming except a couple of hedge funds and a lone ABN Amro analyst. ‘The whole thing is pathetic’, writes Marco de Groot. Imtech has been declared bankrupt and the last CEO and CFO will without a doubt do penance, and rightly so. Still, it can’t just have been these two who pushed the company over the edge, can it? For years brokers and investors were mesmerised by Imtech’s unique... More >


Youp drives a Jeep on holiday in Scotland

Youp drives a Jeep on holiday in Scotland

Comedian Youp van ‘t Hek is on holiday in Scotland and finds his left-hand drive is not as easy to handle as he thought. Driving a car with the steering wheel on the right-hand side is difficult enough so why not make life easier and go for an automatic. It’ll save you from having to change gear with your left hand. So said a good friend who likes to dole out good advice. This time he was meddling with my... More >


The Dutch economy: The old and the new normal

The Dutch economy: The old and the new normal

Economist Mathijs Bouman says the 2% growth rate predicted for 2015 by the number crunchers at the CPB hides a rising structural deficit. It’s taken a while but the optimism virus has now definitely spread to the economists of the CPB. Over the last year, the government forecasters have become more cheery-faced with every new projection although they hardly went overboard. Last year the CPB would not go further than a 1.25% economic growth rate for 2015. The euro nose-dived,... More >


A blast from a distant past: the basic income

A blast from a distant past: the basic income

Economists Rick van der Ploeg and Willem Vermeend don’t think the basic income, which a number of local councils want to experiment with, is a very good idea. Long ago, in the 1970s, left-wing parties dreamt of a basic income for everyone: young, old, rich and poor should all get a free, no strings attached, hand-out from the state. The amount would be around the poverty threshold, currently at around €1,000 a month. According to advocates, a flat income would... More >


‘Dijsselbloem is sidelining the democratic process’

‘Dijsselbloem is sidelining the democratic process’

The Netherlands may be proud to have one of its own mingle with the high and mighty but the fact is that Jeroen Dijsselbloem is side-lining the democratic process, write David Hollanders and Merijn Oudenampsen. Writer Milan Kundera distinguished two kinds of provincialism. The kind manifested by big countries ignores outside influences and favours its own. Small countries, however, show their provincialism by showing a great appreciation for what happens outside their borders. That outside world remains alien and unattainable,... More >


‘Gay wedding tourism would be good for everyone’

‘Gay wedding tourism would be good for everyone’

More can be done to make Amsterdam and the Netherlands the gay capital of the world, write D66 politicians Jan Paternotte and Sjoerd Sjoerdsma. They believe we should give gay couples from all over the world the right to get married here. Amsterdam is getting ready for its twentieth Gay Pride canal parade. The capital’s waterways will once again be a showcase for freedom and tolerance. Not only is it the best party in the world, it is also a... More >


Boosting the Beach Body Index

Boosting the Beach Body Index

Summer’s here and the Dutch are heading for the beach. It’s a time when it becomes very obvious indeed that physical health, self-confidence, a positive self-image as well as charisma and attractiveness really do matter, writes the SCP’s Kim Putters. We tend to underestimate the importance of this sort of ‘personal capital’ for the rest of the year. In the discussions about (in)equality we immediately trot out income policy or education but very often health and a pleasant demeanour that... More >


Annemarie says goodbye

Annemarie says goodbye

All good things must come to an end, and that includes this column. For almost seven years I have shared my opinions, my indignation and my ideas with you. Today is the 350th and final time. I’m going to be a member of supervisory board of the Autoriteit Financiële Markten (AFM, the financial sector regulator, DN) and it wouldn’t do to cause raised eyebrows every week. Instead of commenting from the sidelines I will move into a field I love:... More >


‘Prisoners should pay for bed & board while in jail’

‘Prisoners should pay for bed & board while in jail’

If the elderly are made to contribute to their care why should prisoners be exempt from paying towards their own upkeep? Some have plenty of money and prisons don’t come cheap, says entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal. The governing coalition of VVD and Labour have proposed that the inmates of prisons should contribute all of €16 a day for bed and board. It’s a drop in the ocean if you know that the true costs of each inmate’s stay in prison... More >


‘Is it time for change in democracy as a new Senate takes its seats?’

‘Is it time for change in democracy as a new Senate takes its seats?’

Usually little attention is paid in the media to the election of the upper house of parliament in the Netherlands. The system is not quite as archaic as Britain’s House of Lords, but hardly an example of modern democracy, writes commentator Nicola Chadwick. The senate voting system is a complicated one. Generally the result can be predicted in advance, as the provincial councillors vote for their own party. However, residual votes from one party can be passed on to another... More >


‘Government leaves protection of online gamblers largely up to operators’

‘Government leaves protection of online gamblers largely up to operators’

The government’s proposed new gambling act is leaving the protection of gamblers largely in the hands of the gambling operators. Not a very good idea, according to gaming expert Sytze Kingma, lecturer at the VU Department of Organisation Sciences. The government wants to legalise internet gambling. It makes sense: hundreds of thousands of people are gambling on (illegal) foreign-based sites. Legalisation would make it easier to protect people from deception, fraud, whitewashing, match fixing and gambling addiction. It would also... More >


‘The poor should benefit from lower interest rates too’

‘The poor should benefit from lower interest rates too’

People are paying crippling interest rates on their debts with banks and mail order companies. If the wealthy can persuade the government to lower the tax on wealth then the poor should benefit from lower interest rates too, writes Annemarie van Gaal. The Dutch are a frugal lot and for quite a while our savings have been a nice little earner for the state. For the last 15 years it has been assuming that the return on your savings is... More >


‘The Dutch government needs to do more cost benefit analyses’

‘The Dutch government needs to do more cost benefit analyses’

What Jesse Klaver, newly-appointed GroenLinks leader, calls ‘economism’ could well be the life-line of compassion in society instead of its nemesis, writes economist Mathijs Bouman. Lesson 1 in the Politician’s Handbook: create an enemy. Choose an element in society which will serve as a scapegoat. Provide people with a focus for their anger. Then promise to eliminate the problem. It’s not a lesson wasted on Jesse Klaver. During his first speech as the new leader of GroenLinks he revealed the... More >


‘Five job killers are destroying employment in the Netherlands’

‘Five job killers are destroying employment in the Netherlands’

Five job killers are destroying employment in the Netherlands. Economists Willem Vermeend and Rick van de Ploeg take a look at ways of tackling them. According to figures out last week, the Dutch economy shows a 4% growth rate for the first quarter compared to the same period in 2014. A greater rate of investment, increased exports and greater consumer spending are fuelling this growth. At the same time, unemployment is hovering around the 7% mark. In spite of the... More >


‘Moralising about drug use doesn’t help, but neither does trivialising the problems’

‘Moralising about drug use doesn’t help, but neither does trivialising the problems’

It is not a good idea to be too cavalier – or moralistic – about drug use, write Ninette van Hasselt, Ferry Goossens and Margriet van Laar, who all work for the Trimbos addiction centre in Amsterdam. The world seems to be divided into two camps where drugs are concerned: the frivolous (what harm can it do) and the moralistic (using drugs is very, very bad). Recently, Loes Reijmer used an article in the Volkskrant to turn on the latter.... More >


‘Councils are wasting public money with generous redundancy packages’

‘Councils are wasting public money with generous redundancy packages’

Local councils are wasting public money by giving over-generous and discriminatory severance packages to former staff, writes entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal Last week the Financieele Dagblad reported that the province of Zeeland may be out of pocket to the tune of several million euros because former employees of the provincial civil service are demanding a better severance deal and have gone to court to get it. I find that shocking for more than one reason. In 2012, the provincial authorities... More >


‘Ban arrests of peaceful demonstrators’

‘Ban arrests of peaceful demonstrators’

Lawyer Willem Jebbink represents Abulkasim al-Jaberi, the man who was arrested recently for shouting ‘Fuck the king’, thereby committing lese majesty, which is still a punishable offence in the Netherlands. Jebbink thinks his arrest flies in the face of civil liberty. The prosecution of my client Abulkasim al-Jaberi for insulting the king and queen has generated much discussion about the archaic law that penalises lese majesty, and rightly so. We should ask ourselves if such a law is still relevant,... More >