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Douglas van den Berghe: Crisis may benefit Amsterdam

24 October 2008 - Thanks to the adequate response of the Ministry of Finance and the Dutch central bank (DNB), the Netherlands is presenting itself as a safe haven for international banks, with a reliable government. For banks, this might be a reason to locate in Amsterdam, Douglas van den Berghe of Investment Consulting Associates (ICA) says.

Part five in a series on Amsterdam and the Crisis

Last year, ICA conducted a study on 'Amsterdam in a globalising world', commissioned by the municipality. In its report, the agency warns that in terms of foreign investments, the city depends heavily on America, making it vulnerable for economic shocks such as the credit crunch.

However, Van den Berghe says that the impact of the crisis should not be exaggerated. "Some media suggested that the entire world economy was about to collapse. And if we are to believe the day to day developments at the stock exchange, we're on an 'economic rollercoaster'. However, even though a few more banks may collapse and the real economy may be going through a difficult time, causing one or two lean years, the Dutch economy is in good shape".

The impact on Amsterdam will remain limited, because the city is far less dependent on the financial sector than cities like London. "There will be jobs at stake in the financial sector, but those people will find a job with another bank or a renowned consulting agency".

Van den Berghe praises the 'swift and adequate' way in which the Ministry of Finance and DNB dealt with the problems at Fortis, ABN Amro and ING. "There will surely be a spin-off. We have shown that we have a reliable system here, which supports us in difficult times. For financial institutions, this may be a reason to locate here".

Van den Berghe agrees with the economic policy of Alderman Lodewijk Asscher, who wants the city to focus on financial niche markets such as the management of pension funds and who asks the national government for tax breaks.

Another sector offering opportunities for Amsterdam is ICT, Van den Berghe says. There are numerous small, often foreign businesses operating in IT, telecommunications and media, which successfully service a global market from Amsterdam. Amsterdam could be seen as the 'global IT hub'.

Van den Berghe is critical regarding the way in which the Zuidas business district is being developed. "Although office space is available in Amsterdam, it often doesn't meet demand. If you want to attract businesses like Google, you'll have to have trend-setting architecture with attention to internal and external design. For many international corporations, the architecture in Dubai is an example. In the Netherlands, we tend to find this gaudy".

Another problem the city should deal with is its slow decision-making. "An entrepreneur told me that it's worse here than in Eastern Europe twenty years ago. Decision-making is sluggish and extremely bureaucratic".

Photo: Mooste


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