From the beginning, I was not happy that the Minister of Third World Development in Cabinet Mark Rutte II also carried the title Minister of Foreign Trade.
In my humble opinion, third world development and foreign trade were two interest areas, which would be very hard to combine at the same time. The interests of countries in the Third World go seldomly hand in hand with the needs of Dutch entrepreneurs in Small and Medium Enterprise (SME).
Like I already wrote in my second article upon the government agreement of the Cabinet Rutte II:
Third world development is not seen as a ‘biblical’ duty to help the people in need, but rather as a means to help Dutch companies over the head of the poorest people. Foreign trade and third world development are combined in one minister and – on top of that – this minister receives €1 bln less budget for third world development.
Last weekend, the Dutch financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad printed a small, but telling article about the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Third World Development, Liliane Ploumen.
Entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises, who want to do business abroad, feel themselves hardly represented by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Third World Development, Liliane Ploumen (PvdA; Dutch labour party).
‘Ploumen is doing her best, but she has a background as civil servant’, according to Victor van den Heuvel, chief commercial officer of Charbon Engineering. ‘She doesn’t sense what is important for us, as ‘World Conquerors’. On top of that, the entrepreneur thinks it is an ‘awkward choice that a social-democrat should protect the interests of entrepreneurs, who are working in a world where everything is turning around earning money’.
As a consequence, Van den Heuvel is not impressed with her policy “It remains opaque. She makes too few clear choices concerning subjects, which are important for entrepreneurs. Things like diminishing the bureaucracy abroad”.
Maarten van der Dussen, managing director of software company Pro-ductIP, finds that the minister has more ‘passion’ for third world development than for trade. ‘She is quite active, but not very visible for entrepreneurs’. Ploumen should do much more to promote the Dutch business society, according to Van der Dussen.
The link between aid and trade is unclear for many entrepreneurs. Peter Masselink, managing director of Softbricks: ‘This combination only makes sense in third world countries. However, there is no link in the other countries where Dutch entrepreneurs do business’.
There you have it:
- The Dutch entrepreneurs are dissatisfied with Liliane
Ploumen, because they feel not well-represented by this minister, with her
beating heart for Third World Development;
- The developing and third world countries are probably dissatisfied with Ploumen, because she has two functions, which are very hard to combine. Therefore, she is not able to make clear choices, which can be easily understood by her partners in the developing and third world countries.
Summarized, the Minister herself is in a schizophrenic position, in which she can’t do justice to both interest areas of her ministry.
And of course there is always the old, worn-out prejudice that social-democrats don’t understand entrepreneurs; something which only liberal-conservatives are capable of (red and bold text). Social-democrats are reputedly too soft on aid and too hard on entrepreneurs.
I always wonder whether entrepreneurs are really so narrow-minded, that everything in their world is only turning around earning money. I guess this is unfortunately true for some of them, as this very example proves.
Nevertheless, this judgment upon Minister Liliane Ploumen by the Dutch entrepreneurs proves once more that Foreign Trade and Third World Development cannot be combined, without neglecting the interests of at least one of the two categories of stakeholders. Therefore these interest areas should not be combined anymore in one ministry.