Economically, this small, underwater nation, known for its permissive attitude toward sex, drugs and corporate profits, has succeeded beyond measure. As an expansive trading powerhouse, it gave birth to the world’s first multinational corporation, and remains the largest stock trading center in Europe.
Now, in the face of housing shortages and tensions over immigration, there is a new consensus against unbridled growth at any cost. As voters head to the polls, candidates for Wednesday’s elections are competing to shut down their country.
The outgoing government has held others to a high standard. Complementing the “Stay Away” campaign in Amsterdam targeting young Britons, they have designed policies to deter expatriates to whom the country has long been attractive. They plan to cut flights, reduce immigration numbers and reduce tax breaks for foreign workers.
It seems to be blocking the road. According to most polls published before the elections, the center-right incumbents are leading in the opinion polls. One competitor has a slogan that sums up this new era of modest ambition: “You can’t do everything everywhere at the same time.”
This has not been the attitude in the European Union’s fifth-largest economy, much of which is built on land reclaimed from the sea. Until a few years ago, the Netherlands’ reputation among the most business-friendly countries was intact.
“The bigger the challenges, the more inward we look,” said Sandra Phillipen, chief economist at ABN AMRO. In a country whose fragmented electoral system makes coalition governments inevitable, consensus is crucial, and it is now coalescing around resetting the Netherlands’ open-minded image.
Although she was previously a refugee, Dilan Jeselgos-Zygerius, who spent much of the campaign as a front-runner, has made cracking down on immigration central to her campaign for the ruling VVD party, which she took over from outgoing Prime Minister Mark. Roti.
Frans Timmermans leads a coalition between the Green Left and Labor parties. As the EU’s climate czar, he was the architect of bloc-wide environmental policies that in his home country led to forced farm closures. In the latest poll he appeared to rise to a tie for first place.
Peter Omtzgut, who represents a breakaway party formed just before this election, is the architect of the plan approved by Parliament last month to reduce the income tax exemption on expatriate salaries. He had fallen to fourth place as of Monday night’s poll.
Another candidate in the leading group is Geert Wilders, who is considered by many inside and outside the country responsible for popularizing anti-immigration sentiment. His far-right Freedom Party jumped to third place as of Monday evening, which could help him play the role of kingmaker after the election. Yesilgoz-Zegerius declined to rule out a partnership with him in a recent Bloomberg interview.
The public mood has already begun to change under Rutte, who intends to retire from parliament once the next prime minister is clear. In the wake of some high-profile corporate scandals, he exploited the burgeoning public perception that the agreement between business and the state was not working.
Oil giant Shell PLC in 2019 confirmed media reports that it had not paid corporate income tax in the Netherlands the previous year. In 2020, a Dutch newspaper revealed that travel e-commerce company Booking.com BV received millions of euros in state support during the pandemic, while paying next to nothing in taxes and conducting share buybacks worth $16 billion.
Later, although Rutte spent a great deal of political capital trying – and failing – to abolish the popular corporate profits tax that companies had objected to, Shell ended up backing away from the UK in a move that left the Dutch government “unsurprisingly surprised.” he walked”.
In his first decade in power, the longest-serving Dutch prime minister found himself confronting critics who accused him of being too willing to lend a listening ear to companies. But these critics aren’t criticizing so loudly anymore.
During the final period of his 13-year premiership, the Netherlands shut down gas extraction from Europe’s largest gas field, even as prices soared in the wake of the war in Ukraine. In deference to local anger over the earthquakes, the closure of the Groningen field left a trillion dollars’ worth of liquefied natural gas in the ground.
For some voters, the changes have come too late. Coalition governments in the past 20 years have run the Netherlands “more like a company than a society,” according to Maurice van Uden, who runs a headhunting company that employs 50 people. He is shifting his vote from Rutte’s soon-to-be party to the National Security Council led by Umtsigt, whose name has made him a thorn in the side of the former prime minister.
Van Ouden told Bloomberg that he couldn’t sleep at night. The 56-year-old lies awake as planes fly over his home in leafy south Amsterdam. He is one of the citizens the government is looking to appease with a plan to limit flights at Europe’s largest transport hub, Schiphol Airport, arguing that its location in a “highly urbanized area in one of the busiest areas of the country” means it needs to do a better job of protecting… Residents’ well-being.
The plan put the airport at the center of a global battle between politicians and airlines who stand to lose business due to the cuts. However, the government is not just asking others to tighten their belts. It also owns a majority stake in the airport. Most of the competing parties support cutting flights, and some want to take further action by increasing taxes on aviation.
When Rutte came across glowing charts about the Dutch economy in the international business media, he liked to point them out proudly to colleagues, according to a person familiar with his habits.
However, the focus of Wednesday’s election campaign was the damage to living standards, with voters driven by a growing sense that this economic record, as with the expansion of the Dutch Golden Age that Rembrandt and Claesz celebrated in their canvases, had a flip side. .
In past centuries, the dark undercurrent that led to the prosperity of the Netherlands was the plunder of its colonial possessions; It is a legacy that the country is only beginning to take into account, as Rutte’s government apologized late last year for the country’s role in the slave trade.
Today’s problems include rowdy British tourists, a housing shortage, and rising rents. The Amsterdam city government has questioned the sex work industry’s tourism-based business model and moved to ban cannabis smoking on the streets of the red light district.
“We must now choose restriction rather than irresponsible growth,” said Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Soufiane Mbarki, who is working to discourage tourists whose average monthly arrivals exceed the resident population.
The Dutch economy has certainly slipped into recession this year, with exports shrinking by 0.7% in the second quarter.
In the latest opinion poll conducted by Ipsos on the concerns of Dutch voters, health care, costs of living, and housing came at the top of voters’ concerns. But a large part of the campaign was dominated by the fourth factor: immigration.
Umtsigt pledged to reduce net migration to a target of 50,000 annually from 200,000 last year by limiting the number of people arriving for work, asylum and study. In a country where more than half of the population speaks two or more foreign languages, according to Eurostat data, he wants to make Dutch, not English, the default language in universities.
A nationwide housing shortage means universities such as HEindhoven University of Technology has already had to turn away foreign students, according to its rector. “It is very tempting to blame migrants for the housing shortage. This distracts people from the failure of your housing policy,” says Leo Lucassen, professor of global labor and migration history at the 448-year-old Leiden University.
Companies that may lose are themselves sounding the alarm. Peter Wennink, CEO of ASML Holding NV, told… News hour Knowledge migration has been pivotal for his 120-nationality company, which is ranked as Europe’s most valuable technology company, the TV show showed.
“The Netherlands has always been an open country, which has brought us tremendous prosperity,” said Robert-Jan Smits, President of Eindhoven University of Technology. He said plans to deter foreign students and employees would hurt the economy.
ABN AMRO expects two scenarios after the elections: The Progressive Coalition will put the Netherlands on a “good path” to tackling difficult issues. In another scenario, an ultra-conservative coalition could start to “back down” on certain issues, perhaps by withdrawing climate policies, said Philippin, the coalition’s chief economist.
“If you look at the Netherlands today, I really think it is one of the best countries to live in,” Ali Niknam, founder of Dutch bank Bunq BV, told Bloomberg. “Sometimes it feels like we take it for granted. We have to be very careful not to miss out on all the great things we’ve worked so hard for.”