The Netherlands threatens to lose its position in the top 5 of the worldcompetitiveness index within five years. Frans van Houten warned about this Monday evening in the EW Economy lecture organized by Elsevier Weekblad.
Although the Netherlands is high on the list of competitive players, the Philips top man pointed out that the Netherlands scores less strongly on those issues that are important for our future, such as investments in artificial intelligence and ICT adoption. Sectors in which the Netherlands is traditionally strong, such as transport and distribution, are losing economic significance. “That engine is starting to falter,” said Van Houten about the Netherlands Distributieland.
Instead, the Netherlands should invest in innovation clusters, such as brainport Eindhoven, of which the main companies now represent a value of €230 billion. Such clusters should also emerge in agrifood, medical and cloud technology. “If we can achieve five or six successful ecosystems in the Netherlands, our future prosperity is already a lot more secure,” said Van Houten.
Criticism of Brussels
The Philips CEO also called for more attention to education and retraining, investment in infrastructure and maintenance of flexible labour market rules, but with support for people who lose their jobs.
Van Houten gave the European competition policy a mute because it would put companies at a disadvantage compared to competitors from America and China, where national champions are encouraged.
Competition policy makes it difficult for companies to consolidate in Europe, ‘because it strives to achieve maximum competition within every country of Europe, especially in the interests of consumers’. “We should not only look at the competitive conditions of European companies within Europe, but just how strong they stand on the world stage.”