News from the FEB – by Yoeri Min
Prof. dr. Han van Dissel has been reappointed as the Dean of the Faculty of Economics & Business at the University of Amsterdam. Han van Dissel was reappointed by the Executive Board after consulting the Faculty Works Council and the Faculty Student Council. The reappointment starts per August 2016, and is valid for a period of five years.
On April 14th 2016, the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, gave a guest lecture in the Amsterdam Business School of the University of Amsterdam. During one of the series of lectures on ‘How does the Netherlands work’ by Alexander Rinnooy and Paul Schnabel, Mark Rutte talked about Dutch entrepreneurship and its successes, the strength of the Netherlands, and the role of the government within the Dutch economy. Afterwards, the attendees were able to ask the prime minister some questions.
Venice of the North – by Artur Rymer
Amsterdam is often called Venice of the North as, just like the Italian city, it is famous for its canals. However, although this term used to be an indication of beauty and status of the Netherlands’ most iconic city, it is now becoming an indication of a problem that has consumed Venice and now threatens to do the same with Amsterdam: the amount of tourists.
According to predictions, by 2025 the amount of visitors in Amsterdam will rise by 35% up to 30 million of tourists per year. Because of the rising numbers and the effect of tourism on Amsterdam, the leader of the social-democratic PvdA (Partij van de Arbeid – Labour Party) in Amsterdam, Marjolein Moorman, has called for measures to tackle the problem. Among them is moving more than 300 festivals, that take place in the city each year, to the suburban areas, regulating the maximum amount of days that apartments in the center can be rented out through websites such as AirBnB, limiting the amount of hotels and introducing various tourist taxes.
Tourism brings benefits to the local economy as tourists tend to spend a lot and thus support local businesses and increase tax revenues. However, it brings problems as well. Surging prices of food, rent, apartments and tourists walking on bike lanes affect us all. This is the beginning of an important discussion on how to make Amsterdam a place where both locals can live comfortably and tourists can enjoy their stay.
Economics Recap – by Daniel Koudijs
While the world worried over China, Oil prices and American elections, the Dutch economy continued to grow over the past few months. But under increasing weight of a concerned world economy, it finally broke. The Dutch statistical institute CBS reported a flattening of the business cycle in March. Where in the past months the institute’s so-called “business-cycle clock” showed improvements, in March the improvement halted and consumer sentiments fell. But the Dutch aren’t the only ones less positive. The IMF downgraded its overall economic forecasts for Europe, America and the emerging economies; citing concerns over “non-economic risks” as the main reason. In a climate of feeble economic growth, political stability is threatened as populist and nationalist sentiments become stronger. In turn, political uncertainty can depress long-term investment and consumer expectations even more, leading to a downward spiral of lower and lower economic growth (see for example Brazil’s current malaise). The IMF added some government advice to their forecast revision: advanced economies stuck in low growth and low inflation should focus more on long-term reform of their product and labour markets. Bold and determined governments are needed to save countries from collapsing inward, both economically and politically. The Netherlands is no exception.
Politics Recap – by Yana Chernysh
On the 22nd of March, a terrorist attack occurred at Brussels airport. Two explosions by the Islamic State took place in the departure hall. 13 people were killed and 89 were wounded. Later the same day, another explosion went off at metro station with 20 people killed and 190 wounded.
On the night of the 2nd of April, the conflict between the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Armenia on one side and Azerbaijan on the other has begun. More than 50 people have already been killed and the conflict is growing, with a risk of becoming a regional war.
On the 13th of April, parliament elections were held in Syria. There were more than 3.5 thousand candidates aiming for 250 spots in the parliament. Some countries, for example, Germany, do not acknowledge the results, as the ongoing war in Syria does not allow having open and honest elections.
On the 12th of April, two Russian jet fighters were flying close to the US navy on the territory of the Baltic Sea. Both countries state that it was an indicator of aggression from the other side. Earlier, in January this year, a similar incident happened with a Russian jet fighter and a US air scout on the territory of the Black Sea. Now, countries are analyzing the case.
In the middle of the month, anti-government protesters have occupied the streets of Macedonia. The protests were followed by a presidential pardon for 56 politicians involved in the corruption scandal.
Rousseff in for a Ride – by Michael van Rhee
The Brazilian Parliament has recently started a vote that could well cost President Dilma Rousseff her job. The opposition is hoping to gain a two-thirds majority for the proposal in order to begin an impeachment against Rousseff, who has been fiercely accused of covering up state deficits. Prior to the vote, there was a two-day long debate in the House of Representatives, and if the opposition manages to find a two-thirds majority there, the matter must go to the Senate, where a simple majority will suffice to temporarily put President Rousseff out of her function. In that case, the Senate will start a trial against her, with the ultimate goal of — at least for her critics — depositing her altogether. The president’s party is furious about these attempts; according to them, all of this is nothing less than a disguised coup. However, coup or not, things are clearly pretty tense in Brazil, where thousands of people are demonstrating in front of the country’s parliament building in the capital city, Brasilia. Additional security is doing its job for the moment, but as polls show that as much as 60% of all Brazilians have lost faith in their president, Rousseff is in for one hell of a ride.
The Netherlands Said ‘NO’ to Ukraine in the Referendum – by Olga Kowalska
The potential Ukraine-EU treaty on a closer political and economic cooperation was rejected by the 61 percent of Dutch referendum voters. The turnout was noticeably low, because only 32.28 percent participated in voting, which is just above the 30 percent threshold required to make the outcome legitimate. Even though the referendum was only advisory and results are not legally binding for the government, Mark Rutte promised to take the outcome into consideration and to try to renegotiate the agreement. In January 2016, the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement was already applied, but since The Netherlands still has not ratified it, the treaty remains only provisional. The outcome of referendum was symbolically seen by many as a public expression of Dutch scepticism towards the European Union. This is a sensitive topic now, especially in the light of the current Dutch EU’s rotating presidency. More on the referendum can be found here and here.
The Not So Democratic Debate – by Brunno Fontanetti
Brooklyn, 14th of April 2016: two Democrats start a debate that could determine who is going to win the next american presidential election – I prefer not to believe that Trump has even a slight chance of winning. Bernie’s nomination would clearly be a more liberal option for the young people, who wouldn’t vote for Hillary unless she was their only choice. However, the fierce and savage debate on Thursday showed that now the game has changed.
Senator Bernie Sanders and the former Secretary of Defense Hillary Clinton participated in what was called one of the hottest debates the Democratic party has ever had. Bernie went for the core issues he has been using to undermine Hillary’s campaign: Wall Street support, lack of transparency when talking about her campaign donors and, the cherry on top of the cake, her support of the Iraq war. Clinton, on the other hand, attacked Bernie’s unclear opinion about gun control, as well as his intangible proposed solutions, like splitting big banks.
In an ocean of political despair, and what it seems to be one of the most competitive US elections of the 21st century, Clinton and Bernie come to light as interesting options for the next american president. Next Tuesday, 19th of April, the state of New York will decide their Democrat and Republican candidate, let’s hope that the best men, or woman, wins.
Business Recap – by Michel Mijlof
It seems that the economy and business world are doing pretty well lately. The Dutch stock exchange AEX was at 451 points, which is the highest this year. Another example is that the oil prices, specifically the Brent Crude Oil price, are recovering. Currently, the price is at €44 and this is also the highest oil price of the year. All the OPEC countries, excluding Iran, decided to lower their oil production. Therefore, as the supply will be lower, the price will rise. Despite the nice, new annual records for some indices, the world economy is still not stable. The volatility is high due to the anxiety of terrorism, ‘Brexit’ and other factors.
This month also the ‘Panama papers’ were leaked and this will definitely affect the business world. In particular, Amsterdam could be affected quite harsh because of the so-called ‘shelf companies’. These companies do not have any activity here but are just settled in Amsterdam because the Dutch law allows companies to pay corporate income tax in the Netherlands instead of their home country. As a result, they can avoid the high taxes such as 30% or 40% at home and pay taxes in the Netherlands, where it is just 25%.
Cinema Chain Reverses Decision to Allow Mobile Phone Use During Films – by Antoine Steen
US cinema chain AMC, which operates more than 5,000 screens in almost 400 cinemas in the US, has made a U-turn on a controversial plan to allow customers to use their mobile phones during films in some locations. The company’s chief executive Adam Aron had suggested that the idea could draw young adults to the cinema.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the plan received huge criticism on social media, with cinema-goers bombarding AMC with messages. In response to the outcry, the cinema chain released the following statement: “This is an idea we have relegated to the cutting room floor… there will be no texting allowed in any of the auditoriums at AMC Theatres”.
Stephan Hawking’s Nanocrafts – by Magdalena Wiśniewska
On 12th of April, at the One World Observatory in New York City, Stephen Hawking, supported by Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg, launched ‘a mission to the stars‘. The initiative, called a Breakthrough Starshot, aims to develop a ‘nanocraft‘ – a gram-scale robotic space probe driven by a light beam. It will be able to gain to 20 percent of the speed of light and, if successful, could reach Alpha Centauri in about 20 years after launch. The nanoship would be able to supply the images of all the planets encountered on its interstellar travel and is predicted to be executed within a generation. The budget for the project is supposed to amount to $100 million. It right away became a number one position on the list of attempts to discover extraterrestrial life.
Stairway to Court – by Raffaele Di Carlo
“There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven…” may very well be some of the most well-known lyrics of all history of music, not to mention the characteristic intro of the song with its smooth arpeggios. But what if the chords that comprise it were the fruit of somebody else’s work?
This question constitutes the core of a lawsuit moved by the 60s band Spirit against the Led Zeppelin, started in 2014 and now reopened for inspection by judge Gary Klausner, with the final ruling planned for the end of May. Michael Skidmore, representative of Spirit’s guitarist Randy Wolfe, who passed away in 1997, claims that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant heard the intro chords of the song Taurus, composed by Wolfe, while the Led Zeppelin and Spirit were on tour together, and then directly copied it into Stairway to Heaven without ever crediting Wolfe. The Led Zeppelin deny ever coming in contact with Spirit.
It is fairly common in art to borrow, copy and rearrange ideas, and especially descending chromatic four-chord progressions such as those in the intro to Stairway to Heaven are all but rare in the music industry, however, there is more at play: the intro is considered the “trademark” of the song, which has today an estimated worth of some 525 million dollars in royalties; a fortune that may have been in the wrong hands all along. Were the lawsuit successful, Skidmore would be awarded 50% of that fortune, however, only time will tell.
TSB Employees Now Create Psychological Profiles of Their Customers – by Ioana Nicolau
Nowadays, the use of big data by all kinds of companies is no surprise. However, in these times, it looks like TSB (retail and commercial bank in UK) made a step further and started to carry out gsecret psychological tests on customers.
As a result, people seeking a loan will be labelled as one of four personality types: logical thinker, amiable, controller or emotional expressive. It is likely that these people will not be that thrilled about having their bank placing them in these strange categories. The bank obviously came out with a sweet explanation with regards to the matter: Rachel Lock, human resources director at TSB, said the bank was simply treating customers as individuals: ‘I’m bemused and perplexed in this day and age that some people still seem to think that customers should be treated on the bank’s terms. At TSB, we’ve always thought the opposite; customers should be treated on their terms.”
This approach represents the latest attempt by banks to boost their profits by taking advantage of personality traits. Similarly, RBS has developed a data strategy called ‘personology’ to track customers’ behaviour and spending habits. It is believed that around 800 analysts go through every aspect of an account holder’s finances to build up an in-depth profile.