10 Talking heads. Dutch opinion leaders
An introduction to opinion leaders in The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, everyone has an opinion about everything. But only few of us have the privilege of giving his or her comments in the media. Don’t ask why, but when it comes to economics and finance, the number of smarty-pants has grown incredibly over the last three years. One in five talkshow guests is a professor of (financial) economics or a financial journalist. Most of them are both. The International Correspondent introduces the 10 most cited opinion-makers of the Netherlands. From the Prophet of Doom to the Dutch Godfather of Economics.
1. Willem Middelkoop
He predicted the financial crisis, then told the Dutch not to worry. By the end of 2008, Willem Middelkoop was a regular guest on De Wereld Draait Door, Hollands most popular talkshow. Three years later, he thinks that the worst is yet to come. According to this doomsayer, Greece, Portugal and Ireland will abandon the euro within one year and the price of oil will rise beyond imagination.
Middelkoop (49) started his career as a photojournalist and later became a stockmarket analyst and writer on financial matters. His first book was published in 2007. Als de dollar valt (When the Dollar Falls) marked his status as guru. In his third book, How to Survive the Financial Crisis, he advises readers to invest in gold. Unsurprisingly, Middelkoop is co-founder of the Gold & Discovery Fund.
2. Sylvester Eijffinger
For a professor of Financial Economics these are golden times. Eijffinger (57) has been making headlines since the beginning of the financial crisis. Nearly every day journalists are knocking on the doors of Tilburg University to ask his opinion. Look on Eijffinger’s website (www.sylvestereijffinger.com) for his commentaries on the latest financial developments. According to him, the US dollar has not yet hit rock bottom. He also advises strongly against the purchase of stocks (although he believes in the Asian markets) and criticizes the indecisive policy of European countries when it comes to tackling the debt crisis. To put the economy back on track, Prof. Eijffinger says, the EU would need to double its bailout fund from 750 billion euros to 1,500 billion.
3. Sweder van Wijnbergen
From 1980 to 1992, Prof. Dr Sweder van Wijnbergen (50) worked as an economist at the World Bank. Since 1992, he has been a professor at the University of Amsterdam, interrupted by a period when he was Secretary-General at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Over the last decades, ‘Baron’ van Wijnbergen has published extensively in the areas of international economics and public finance. He used to be a worthy consultant for the Dutch government, but as a member of labour party, PVDA, Wijnbergen obviously doesn’t agree with the current right-wing government. About the latest economic measures, he recently said: “This must be the most conservative and anti-reform economic programme we have had in the past 40 years.”
4. Alexander Rinnooy Kan
Rinnooy Kan (62) is President of the Dutch Social and Economic Council (SER), a major economic advisory body for the Dutch government, and, in recent times, not a very happy one. He used to work at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, where he became Director of the Econometric Institute in 1983 and Rector Magnificus in 1986. He was also visiting professor at Berkeley, California and MIT, Boston. As head of the SER, Rinnooy Kan is particularly frustrated by the way his council is being ignored by our right-wing government. He is considered to be the most influential person in the Netherlands, but seems unable to convince policy-makers to invest in our knowledge economy. The Netherlands is far behind innovation leaders like Sweden and Finland.
5. Jort Kelder
The celebrity among all ‘analysts’, Kelder (47) hosts several TV shows. He presents the Dutch version of Dragon’s Den and Bij ons in the BV, a program about the value of money. In Bij ons in de PC, he follows the rich and wealthy visitors of the PC Hooftstraat, the Netherland’s most decadent shopping boulevard. Kelder is also a regular sidekick on the De Wereld Draait Door. This former editor-in-chief of business magazine, Quote, is one of the most fashionable and outspoken opinion makers around. Calling top lawyer Bram Moszkowicz a ‘friend of the mafia’ brought him to court, but Moszkowicz’ case was dismissed. Kelder’s pet topic is the installation of a cabinet of entrepreneurs, from which the Dutch knowledge economy ‘will surely benefit’.
6. Henriëtte Prast
The first woman on this list is also the first economist with a particular interest in the emotional side of economics. Prast (56) is a professor of personal financial planning at Tilburg University. Since April 2000, she writes a weekly column on economics and psychology in the financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad. Her expertise is behavioral economics and its policy implications, with a focus on personal finance (pensions, ageing and retirement), health-related behavior and sustainability. Prast’s books includes Money & Hapiness and Money & Feeling. This emo-economist is a regular guest on the television program Alles draait om geld (It’s all about the money).
7. Willem Vermeend
In his columns for De Telegraaf, The Netherland’s leading newspaper, Willem Vermeend (63) doesn’t mince words. According to him, Greece should be thrown out of the euro-zone. Not that Greece cares, because Vermeend is no longer part of the Dutch government. He was, from 1994 until 2002, first as State Secretary for Finance, and from 2002 as Minister of Social Affairs. Vermeed is a commissioner and board member of many companies, including Mitsubishi Motors Europe, internet company Jitscale, cross-media company TSS and Randstad Holding. This professor of fiscal law at Maastricht University is often called a ‘Fiscal Whizzkid’ and is known for his extensive knowledge and sharp opinions, combined with a lot of humour.
8. Lans Bovenberg
Bovenberg (53) is an important Dutch economist, known mainly for his contribution to the Dutch debate on population ageing, pension reforms and public finances. After he graduated from Berkeley University in the United States in 1984, he worked for some years with the International Monetary Fund. Back in the Netherlands he became a professor of economics and deputy director at the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. Since April 2004 he has been scientific director of the research institute, Netspar, which he himself founded. As an evangelical Christian, touched by faith while he studied in California, Bovenberg is a popular guest for the evangelical broadcasting company, EO. He plans to become a part-time preacher next year.
9. Esther-Mirjam Sent
According to this professor of economic theory and policy, the financial crisis is a direct result of typically-male tendencies, such as risk-taking and unrealistic optimism. Sent (44) was the winner of the Frans Duynsteebokaal in 2010. This award is presented annually to the staff member of the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen who appeared most frequently in the media. Judging from her more recent television and radio appearances, she is a strong contender for this year’s award as well.
10. Arnold Heertje
Generations of Dutch scholars were brought up with Heertje’s economic lessons. In his bestseller, Elementaire Economie, he taught us the principles. Heertje’s interest in economics grew while he was given shelter by a number of families during the Second World War (because of his Jewish roots). These families were all very poor and Heertje decided to study economics to find out where this poverty came from. He became professor emeritus of Political Economy at the University of Amsterdam. Heertje (71) is also known as a politically-involved writer and columnist. The Dutch Godfather of Economics is a firm supporter of investments in sustainability. He writes a column for the website of RTLz, a news program broadcast on RTL7.