July 13, 2014

Rich are getting poorer in the Netherlands

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:56 pm

swimming-pool-meraj-chhayaAn OESO study has discovered that the Netherlands bucks the trend of the rich getting richer at the expense of those paying for the crisis.

Good news, then? Not really. Z24 points out that the Dutch poor are also getting poorer. The group of people that live below the poverty line has increased from 6.7% in 2007 to 7.8% in 2011. In this study ‘rich’ is defined as belonging to the top 10% in disposable income and poor as the bottom 10%.

The financial news site points out that the poor have lost less income than the rich, which is an interesting mathematical factoid, but otherwise devoid of meaning in my opinion. If the poor lose 1.5% of their income it means they go without food for another five days in a year, while for the rich it means they have to wait five days longer before they can purchase their next luxury car. Not quite the same difference.

A group of people that has done relatively well for themselves during the crisis is the elderly whose income has stayed the same. The group of 18 to 25-year-olds has seen their income drop since 2007 by well over 2%, although those differences are minimal compared to those of the same age groups in other countries such as New Zealand and Israel where the elderly are getting rich at the cost of everybody else.

(Photo by Meraj Chhaya, some rights reserved)

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July 14, 2013

Companies rank Dutch banks as barely sufficient

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:16 pm

One in three Dutch companies wants to break up with its bank, but only one in six thinks this is possible, Z24 reports.

The business news site commissioned a study by DVJ Insights to find out how over 500 entrepreneurs feel about their banks. Most Dutch businesses manage their finances through either Rabobank, ABN Amro or ING, which control about 88% of the market. Of the other banks, German Deutsche Bank is the biggest, or rather, the least small. The big three received grades of around 5.7 out of 10 from their clients—the lowest passing grade. Deutsche Bank, which according to Z24 wants to get rid of its Dutch customers, received a 4.

The article doesn’t mention if any of the smaller banks got high grades.

A third of entrepreneurs is considering switching banks, but about half of them think it would be difficult. A reason given is that they also have a private account with the same bank.

One of the reasons businesses are unhappy with their bank is that banks are reluctant to provide loans. In the past two years a third of businesses requested a loan from a bank, but in 64% of the cases these loans were denied.

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May 23, 2013

Musical instrument shop snubs its rock ‘n’ roll clients

Filed under: Music by Orangemaster @ 3:58 pm

A musical instrument shop in Groningen, a city some call the real rock city of the Netherlands (surely a bone of contention with the people of Eindhoven), is looking for someone, male or female, to sell guitars.

They proudly tell us in their advert that their main clientele are rockers, you know, the kind of people who wear black concert shirts, have piercings and tattoos, and favour loud rock music. The shop called Tonika Music wants the ideal candidate to really look like they enjoy selling guitars, have the right qualifications, be convincing, and all the stuff you would expect from a good salesperson, but not have anything in common with the average rocker. They also mention no beards and mustaches, which potential female candidates read as not really wanting women either, but are too daft to say out loud for fear of discriminating!

Blatantly discriminating against people, which goes against Dutch law, the shop will refuse candidates with piercings, visible tattoos, ‘wild hair’ or a predilection for the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. You shouldn’t be a smoker, which they consider as being ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ in a negative way and ideally you should still play in a band and understand musicians. I am sure there are people that fit this description and want to work there, but I’m more worried about the drop in sales that is soon to follow.

A keyboard player on Facebook said it best: “The dumbest sales tactic there is, is valuing your opinion more than you value your clients’ opinion. Luckily, clients are able to discriminate and take their business elsewhere.” The company, currently being trashed on Facebook, has removed their advert, which pretty much proves how stupid they’ve been. People have offered to help them with their PR and give them social media classes. Insulting your clientele has to be the dumbest crisis move ever.

(Photo of Slash, top, by Florex007, some rights reserved. Bottom: partial screenshot of the offending advert via Facebook)

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September 8, 2012

Cops with debts may be fired

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:45 pm

Being in debt is a valid reason to be fired as a police officer, a court has ruled.

The Centrale Raad van Beroep, an appeals court for civil servants, came to this conclusion in the case of a police man with ‘many debts’, as NOS Nieuws puts it. He had been reprimanded in 2005, and when that did not work he was fired in 2009.

The court argued that officers with access to all kinds of databases open themselves up to blackmail, which makes them a greater security risk. Police officers are therefore expected to live up to higher standards.

In the Netherlands jobs are protected. You can only fire an employee through the courts, unless there is a strong reason for immediate dismissal.

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July 15, 2012

Automobile repair companies face crisis

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 9:52 am

Dutch car repair shops are having a tough time. Their turnover has been dropping for years, NOS reports, and it’s all got to do with improved safety of both cars and roads.

The news site says safety improvements to cars, such as automatic parking systems and adaptive cruise control, prevent accidents. Car crashes have further been reduced due to the replacement of many crossroads by roundabouts.

Trade organisation Focwa believes that turnover will drop by several percent in 2012.

With regards to road safety Eamelje (where we found this story) adds that the 2,000 alcoholsloten (ignition interlock devices) that have been installed in cars in the Netherlands are good news on the one hand, but on the other, a bitter reminder of how many drivers overestimate their ability to keep a heavy vehicle under control. An ignition interlock device is a breathalyser coupled with a car lock. Before starting the motor, the driver must exhale into the device. If the blood alcohol level is too high, the car won’t start.

NOS reports that these devices cost 4,000 euro apiece, and that convicted drivers must pay for the device themselves. Convicted drivers are also legally limited to driving cars with these devices installed—bad news for professional drivers. Only Sweden and the Netherlands make use of ignition interlock devices on a large scale. Experienced drivers that have been caught with a 0.13% blood alcohol level are typically convicted to use these devices.

Twenty percent of all traffic deaths in the Netherlands are connected to drunk driving—130 of 661 road deaths in 2011.

(Photo by Photocapy, some rights reserved)

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December 10, 2011

Prime minister Rutte misleads Wall Street Journal about Dutch debt problems

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:30 pm

Debt to income ratio (%) for households in 2010. Source data: Eurostat.

Last week the Wall Street Journal published an excellent article by Matthew Dalton titled Mortgage Burden Looms Over Dutch. Us Dutch have an average debt of 2.5 times our yearly income, which makes us the heaviest lenders of Europe.

We got into this position because of the way we structure our mortgages. We borrow heavily, then let that debt stand for decades. Interest is deductible from our income tax.

Asked of Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD party) whether this is a problem he told Wall Street Journal:

“It’s not a big issue…if you look at the whole picture,” he said, noting that the Dutch have saved as much in their pension funds as they have in mortgage debt—”and we have huge private savings.”

Financial news website Z24 sorta-kinda calls Rutte out on that. “Staat genoteerd”, (duly noted) writes Jeroen de Boer, i.e. “whatever“. What the Wall Street Journal doesn’t know, and what somebody who is such a great fan of “the whole picture” should have told them, is that mortgage interest deductions are one of the core political wedge issues in the Netherlands. Both Rutte’s party VVD and their coalition partner CDA have told their constituencies time and again that they will never abandon the tax deduction.

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November 28, 2011

Matthijs Bouman predicts a painful recession

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:20 am

The first dip of the current economic crisis was barely felt in the Netherlands. Predictions by the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) on how bad it was going to be have proved to be way off base. Instead of the predicted unemployment rate of 9%, unemployment stayed at 4%. Purchasing power even rose 1.8% in 2009.

Reporter Matthijs Bouman (RTL-Z, Z24) predicts at Z24 that the factors that made the first dip so mild are exactly what will make the second dip painful. During the first dip companies still had some money, and managed to keep personnel on the payroll, he quotes CPB. Human resources managers still remembered how difficult it was during the boom to get skilled labour, and did not want to let go so soon.

Bouman thinks that companies will now be hitting the bottom of their reserves, and that the ensuing unemployment will make the second ‘dip’ of this crisis so much worse.

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June 19, 2010

Trustees keep inviting payments through bankrupt on-line shops

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 12:57 pm

Bankruptcy trustees often keep on-line shops running even though the companies behind them have gone bust, and therefore cannot deliver the goods.

Last week, Webwereld reported about at least three on-line stores that kept taking orders and payments even after they had gone bankrupt. Trade association ICTWaarborg had already sounded the alarm about this last year, but notices the problem continues unabated. According to the trade org, trustees in bankruptcies should shut down the on-line stores as part of their jobs.

In the Netherlands, the trustee in bankruptcy is the one who gets their salary by skimming the property off the top, and is often a lawyer appointed by their law school buddy, the judge. As you can see, absolutely no conflict of interest could possibly take place there.

From what I understand, people can only get money back from a trustee (curator in Dutch) when there has been an ‘undeniable mistake‘. The article I link to tells of a case where somebody wanted to wire money to party A, but accidentally wired it to party B who had just been declared bankrupt. That is considered an undeniable mistake, because the party making the payment had never intended to pay the bankrupt party.

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June 14, 2010

Tourists stay away from Greece

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:20 am

The number of Dutch tourists planning to spend their summer holiday in Greece is down 10% from last year. Competing countries like Spain and Turkey are up from last year, travel agent Steven van Nieuwenhuizen of D-Reizen told De Pers.

Competitor Jonas de Groot of Sunweb has noticed the same trend. “The people who are still picking their destination at this time of the year aren’t too choosy about where they go. They will gladly pick another Mediterranean beach.” According to De Groot, the booking rate for Greece stayed the same throughout the news of the impending bankruptcy of the country, but it was the news of the massive unrest and strikes that has cooled the Dutch tourist’s enthusiasm for Greece.

Hundreds of thousands of Dutch people spend their holidays in Greece each year.

(Photo by Jon Rawlinson, some rights reserved)

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March 27, 2010

Angel of Death, unemployed prosecuted, Superbus – updates

Filed under: Automobiles,Health by Branko Collin @ 12:29 pm

Here are some interesting updates of past 24 Oranges stories.

* Lucia de Berk, the serial killer seemingly convicted on the basis of flawed statistics, received some good news today. Now that her case has been re-opened, the public prosecutor has asked the court to free her and drop all charges against the former nurse.

In 2004 De Berk, nicknamed Angel of Death, received a life sentence for seven murders and three attempted murders of patients under her care. Rather than proving murders had taken place, the prosecution shopped for natural deaths that could pass for suspicious, and if it turned out that De Berk had been working when the alleged victims died, added them to its list. After statisticians brought their objections to this method to public attention, the supreme court decided to let a lower court re-open the case.

The verdict has been announced for April 14.

* Minister Donner of the department of Social Affairs has been told by parliament to re-open the cases of unemployed entrepreneurs who were accused of fraud and sometimes prosecuted for it by UWV, the same organisation that had been feeding them false information that led to this ‘fraud’ in the first place.

The accused were participating in a work re-integration programme that allowed them to set up their own companies while still receiving benefits during the incubation phase. They received benefits for the difference between hours worked and hours available for work, where UWV initially defined ‘hours worked’ as ‘hours billed.’ However, the law says that non-billable hours also count as ‘hours worked.’

UWV (formerly known as GAK) is a private institute that is tasked with distributing unemployment benefits under the supervision of Donner’s department. When the minister pointed out that opening dossiers of already convicted felons was ‘impossible,’ that only seemed to rub parliament the wrong way, according to NRC.

* The Delft students that designed the eco-friendly Superbus are currently building a working prototype. In 2009, after extensive testing on a track, the chassis was built (see image).

The Superbus is a 15-metre-long vehicle that fits 23 passengers. It drives over a dedicated, cheap, concrete lane and doesn’t use bus stops. Instead, prospective passengers indicate where and when they want to board, and presumably the driver caters to these wishes. The Superbus is electrically powered, using lithium polymer battery packs and regenerative braking. Its top speed is 250 kilometres per hour (155 mph). Top Gear, are you reading this?

(Source photo: Superbus)

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