‘This crisis doesn’t faze us’
Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam
Despite the raging economic crisis, Europe’s no. 1 port is doing just fine. The city and port administration work together to make Rotterdam a dynamic centre of global trade. Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb explains how to readers of The International Correspondent
We’ve covered our back and can absorb a knock or two
“Of course the city’s economy has been affected by the crisis, but things are okay. There’s a lot of employment on offer here, particularly for trained personnel. The container transhipment sector is still showing growth, 12% in the first six months. It’s falling a bit because of the euro turmoil, but investment continues to be high.
Companies invest 1.5 to 2 billion euros annually in new and existing business. Recently the harbour was expanded to include an LNG terminal and factories producing bio-fuels. Since industry is so varied here, from high-quality, innovative enterprises to start-ups in the creative sector, we have room to manoeuvre and can absorb a shock or two.
This harbour is not only central to Rotterdam’s economy but also to that of The Netherlands and Europe. It employs 145,000 people and produces 3.3% of GNP. Its added value is 22.2 billion euros. Goods from the whole of Europe leave here for foreign destinations and vice versa. As Mayor of the city, I’m also the harbour’s ambassador. I often visit other harbour-towns in China, Brazil, India etc. ”
The city and harbour are like Siamese twins, joined together at the hip
“A strong harbour needs a strong city with good facilities, one that attracts companies to set up operations there. Meanwhile the harbour drives the city’s economy. The harbour is a knowledge economy in itself. The harbour’s management focuses on commercial interests. The city’s management functions as shareholder and oversees strategic policy. City and harbour work well together, with understanding and respect for each other’s position.
The city has fewer resources than before because national budget cuts have been passed down to us. We just to do more with less money. We have to be smarter and more creative in how we operate.
To grow and strengthen our international position, we have to invest in our infrastructure. We always have to keep in mind that we are participating in international networks. All our decisions have to be based on an international, or at least European, approach. In addition, sustainability is a major issue for us. Rotterdam has big ambitions regarding reducing CO2 emissions. The city and harbour are conjoined in efforts to realise this.”
International business has always been welcome here
“As the main entry point for goods in Europe, Rotterdam is an attractive location for international firms. They create employment, not only directly but also for suppliers and financial and administrative service-providers. They are welcomed by the Rotterdam Investment Agency, where we have people who speak their languages available to guide them. Rotterdam has a long tradition of doing business with the whole world and the whole world can be found in Rotterdam.
It’s a wonderful, but challenging, city, full of contradictions. These rise to the surface faster here than elsewhere because Rotterdammers are outspoken folk. That gets rough sometimes. But when things rub up against each other, they polish each other. Rotterdam’s success is based on its forward-looking approach and openness to change. We welcome international business, and have developed a city that is wonderful to live in.”