The Netherlands in 2040: more vibrant cities
In thirty years, Dutch cities will be even more important to the economy than they are now. Meanwhile national borders will become less and less significant. That is the conclusion of a report by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis on how the Netherlands should prepare for the future.More urbanisation in Europe’s most densely populated country. The report’s prediction contradicts developments many thought the new information era would bring about: since physical location would no longer be important, the problems surrounding urbanisation could be tackled by re-locating people to less populated areas.
But such policies do not work, according to Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser. One of the leading experts on the economic effects of urbanisation, he gave the keynote speech at the presentation of the report. More than ever, says Glaeser, people need to come together to exchange ideas. And they will go to the most vibrant cities, wherever they are.
“Unquestionably the outside world’s share of the economy will continue to grow, and this will be, if anything, a more international urban conglomeration than ever and indeed the connections between the greater Amsterdam conglomeration and the rest of the world will continue to rise. In fact, one of the reasons why I am so positive about this region is that you have centuries of doing this. Amsterdam was in many senses the first global city and there is every reason to expect it will continue to be so."
A combo picture showing Den Haag (top left), Rotterdam (top right), Utrecht (bottom left), Amsterdam (bottom rigth)
Glaeser sees a rosy future for this country. Good news for at least two members of the audience at the presentation of the report in the stately Hall of Knights. Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, who is expected to assume the throne within a few years, and Princess Máxima received the first copy of the report.
The audience also included a number of students. The royal couple remained after the presentation to speak with some them, including 16-year-old Joris, from the Hofstad Lyceum in The Hague.
He agrees that urbanisation will increase, despite the age of the internet.
“People have always thought that everyone can work at home with the arrival of the internet. But ideas come about when people get together. That doesn’t happen via the internet.”
However, Joris and his classmates are concerned about the impact more urbanisation will have on the environment. And how can the conglomeration between Amsterdam and Rotterdam handle this expansion?
Edward Glaeser says the two go together. Densely populated cities don’t require a lot of different means of transportation, making them environmentally better than a more dispersed population. He says the Netherlands should continue to move industry out of the cities, and build taller buildings, to make the most of the little space available.
Mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen agrees. But he also warned against the country becoming too inward looking.
"Mr Glaeser praises our tolerance, our open attitude, but we only have that if we keep being European oriented. If we pull back to behind our dikes, we will certainly not be successful in 2040."
More urbanisation, more people, and more tolerance. It seems like an uncomplicated recipe for a vibrant economy in 2040.