‘Xenophobia bad for economy’
6 February 2007 - Alderman Lodewijk Asscher wants to turn Amsterdam
into an economic ‘top city’. He hopes that successful
companies will also contribute to a social Amsterdam, but he is
hesitant to make firm agreements about this.
Asscher’s economic policies met with sharp criticism at a
lively debate at the Rode Hoed last night. Parool journalist Marcel
Wiegman said he had seldom heard a more meaningless term being used
as a motto for municipal policies than ‘Amsterdam Top City’.
Yves Gijrath, organiser of the Millionaire Fair, found the move
of the Akzo Nobel headquarters to Amsterdam an ‘empty shell’,
since only seventy jobs will be involved. We must not pretend to
have won the Champions League, he said.
Gijrath, referring to a recent study, said the I Amsterdam city
marketing campaign was useless. He further complained that among
foreigners, Amsterdam is mainly known as a cannabis plantation.
A more positive picture was painted by Jan Stoutenbeek, project
leader of the Zuidas business district. That Amsterdam is associated
with cannabis and prostitution is not much of a problem, he found,
for it contributes to brand awareness.
According to Stoutenbeek, Amsterdam is popular among foreign businesses,
among other things because of the creativity of Amsterdammers. He
had not only designers and media companies in mind, but also our
creativity in legal and financial matters.
Against this background, it is a bit painful that today offices
at the Zuidas were searched by the police because the businesses
located there are suspected of involvement in money laundering.
Stoutenbeek apparently did not know yet last night that these searches
were to take place. He was concerned about another problem: we tend
to become ever more xenophobic. He said it is disastrous that talented
immigrants cannot get a job because of their skin colour.
An important issue in last night’s debate was whether Amsterdam
Top City will yield jobs for the large group of low-educated job
seekers. Asscher was optimistic: activities in the creative knowledge
economy will create ‘spin off’ in terms of jobs in cleaning,
hospitality and health care.
In addition, he said that companies such as Shell and KPN are motivated
to offer opportunities to young people, for example in Amsterdam
Discussion leader Ruben Maes wanted to know whether the alderman
also wanted to stimulate such social involvement by requiring companies
that seek government contracts or permits to employ social assistance
recipients, for example. A relevant question, for Alderman Ahmed
Aboutaleb was to introduce a plan for such a system of ‘contract
compliance’ last summer.
Asscher was less than enthusiastic. He was willing to study the
possibilities of contract compliance, but he insisted that this
is not a solution to all problems. He thinks that it is better to
seduce companies than to make conditions.
Earlier research had found that municipalities often have cold
feet when it comes to demanding companies to make a contribution
to social goals. The researchers said this is unnecessary. “Municipalities
should not be too modest; employers can be very creative in finding
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