How to go for the gold

30th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

Lesley's Magnifying Glass investigates a forum on how to revive business investment and encourage foreign interest in the Netherlands.

When Labour PvdA leader Wouter Bos came back from a trip by Dutch party leaders to India, he made the following comment: 'The Netherlands keeps the outside world at bay so that even migrants with talent are not welcome.'


Bos tells the story about a Dutch company interested in having its Indian managers take part in a conference in the Netherlands. The managers could not get a visa and had to meet with their Dutch colleagues in London. 'This is completely nuts.  In this way you cut yourself off from a potential source of income.' In his interview with newspaper 'De Volkskrant', Bos mentions that this is at odds with what has made the Netherlands a great country.

Since his trip to India, Wouter Bos has an 'urgent' feeling that things should change and his outlook on competition has sharpened. But how do you go from here? 

You can't just twiddle your thumbs and get very far with Dutch immigration problems or economic bottlenecks. Nor does complaining solve these problems.

Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported recently that entrepreneurship and innovation are the bottlenecks which face the Netherlands today. Just recently, Junior Minister Karien van Gennip of the Ministry of Economic Affairs said: 'if you stimulate entrepreneurship, you also stimulate innovation. But that’s not enough. R&D expenditure by Dutch companies is minimal when compared internationally. The government can't approach companies with "you shall innovate". We can, however, make it easier for them.'

By creating an arena in which to discuss these topics, you have a springboard for progress. That's just what the American Chamber of Commerce did in co-operation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Top Dutch international business leaders are invited to speak at this forum and to give advice on how to revive business investment and how to encourage foreign interest in the Netherlands.

The second 'Going for Gold' forum took place on 16 May. Frederik Seegers, CEO EMEA, Citigroup's Global Consumer Group and Alexander Rinnooy Kan, Member of the Board of the ING Group, both spoke at the forum. Some of their ideas included revising the Dutch educational system in order to support and stimulate new talent, encouraging Dutch entrepreneurialism and the need to increase public support when it comes to innovation.

 In January, Hans Wijers CEO of Akzo Nobel and Ben Verwaayen CEO of British Telecom (BT) emphasised the need for investing more in Dutch education.

According to AmCham News, Van Gennip is adamant about the Netherlands going for gold, in other words, in offering international companies the best foreign investment location possible.

It will be interesting to see just how the outcome of these quarterly forums affects the international business climate in the future. Certainly just complaining won't do.

[Copyright Expatica 2006]

Subject: Doing business in Holland, Magnifying Glass, Lesley Thomas

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