Search This Blog

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Letter from a reader: what will happen with capitalism after this crisis?

This morning I received a letter from Ken. He is a long-term, British reader of mine and a helluva nice guy. 

I had the pleasure of meeting him once, in real life, during an event upon a possible future economy, in which ubiquitous information and technology sharing would lead to a peaceful and prosperous world for all human beings. 

Even though we were both not very impressed by the presentation, it was truly wonderful to get acquainted to Ken. And this morning, I received this intriguing question from him:

Hi Ernst,

I continue to absorb your excellent articles.  We are certainly living in interesting period. It could go many ways.

Ernst, I wanted to ask you.  If/when things go pear shaped and our current economic system (Capitalism) fails...what economic system do you think will replace it?

My answer to Ken:

At this moment, I would not just call the economic system capitalism. It is rather becoming a neoliberal hypercapitalism, in which there are winners and losers and almost nothing in between. The traditional middle-classes dwindle and there is hardly a safety net anymore for all people, who missed the boat during their study or early career or went through an enduring, tough period in their life.

Labour has almost flexibilized into oblivion and fixed labour contracts are rapidly becoming a luxury good, only reserved for either a vanishing, ‘happy few’ of older workers, or for very talented and scarce, ‘special breed’ personnel and the higher ranks in companies, who need to be lured with a high and stable salary, bonuses and other special favours. 

All other workers are either pushed into being freelancers, who are solely responsible for their own income, pension, social safety net and general well-being, or they get temporary labour contracts and zero hour contracts, that offer near zero security for the long term.

Companies have simply become too scared and reluctant to hire someone on ‘his/her blue eyes and his/her killer smile’ alone. 

This is because of the legal and social consequences that circumstances as longterm worker illness, possible labour conflicts and the unilateral ending of contracts could pose to the sheer existence and financial health of (small) companies. This is in spite of new legislation, that was meant to break open the Dutch labour market, but in fact caused the total opposite, as an unintended consequence.

The few middle class workers that receive a fixed contract must undergo stringent screenings and pre-intake conversations, extensive assessments and two or three job interviews before they finally receive a job. And even then this initially leads to a few one year contracts on many occasions, before the fixed contract is handed out eventually. Everything to prevent small and large companies from being attached to a disappointing, 'weakest link' worker in the long run. 

And so, instead of being an asset of the utmost importance for the well-being and future success of the company that needs to be cherished, educated and elevated, workers are rather seen as a possible risk. A risk that needs to be contained and mitigated. As a matter of fact: distrust and risk mitigation seem the name of the labour game, currently... 

In fact, many workers in large companies seem little more than a durable means of production with a limited preservability for the future, only tolerated and appreciated until the moment that someone or something better (i.e. “robotized systems”) comes along the way.

This is for instance expressed in unscrupulous slogans, like “Be up or be out” and the growing impatience of executive management with average ‘water carriers’ among the personnel of companies. Every worker must either be a passionate Olympic champion in his own working area or he will be replaced by someone who is! There are unfortunately quite a lot of companies, which see their personnel as ‘one trick ponies’, useful for the greater good of the company for as long as they master their trick.

Fortunately, however, other companies still do invest a lot of money and effort in their workers and teach them new areas of expertise by trainings, workshops and by letting them get hands on experience, when their old areas of expertise have become obsolete. Nevertheless, their number seems to be dwindling in recent years, driven by a unilateral focus on shareholder value, short term interests and KPI's.

And what distinguishes this time most, in my humble opinion, is the fact that the ‘winners’ in society hardly feel compassion and solidarity with the alleged losers anymore, but see them as people 'who were simply not good or hungry enough'. People that can be ignored and neglected, as their misfortune could cast a shadow on one's fortune in life, as “you were the master of your own success, weren’t you?!”.

The losers and the people on the wee end of the situation themselves, however, don’t blame the winners anymore for their lack of compassion and their treason, with respect to general solidarity. They also start to believe that they failed in life and missed the boat, due to their own incompetence or misfortune. They are losers! 'nuff said!

Instead, they start to blame other losers or minority groups – cheap workers from East-Europe or people with certain religions – for being the cause of their misery (i.e. in the form of a global conspiracy). 

For instance: the Polish or Bulgarian constructor or factory worker, who took a Dutch worker's job is guilty of the Dutch worker's misery, and not the company who replaced the Dutch worker with a Polish one itself. "The company had to do so, otherwise it would not be profitable anymore". 

This is the reason that the current society has seemingly become so angry, impatient, envious and nervous: simply too many workers and other people have lost a sense of security in their lives and don’t know what and who to blame for that. As a compensation, they start blaming the aforementioned minority groups and other people who are not winning in society.

Champions are hot! Losers are not...

This is a situation that cannot last forever, as the people in the lower and less successful classes and especially the younger generations get more and more frustrated and fed up with their difficult situation and their slow (perhaps impossible(?)) struggle to reach prosperity and a long-lasting sense of security. 
The differences between the haves and the have-nots simply become so big eventually and the urge of the haves for total control and containment of the have-nots becomes so enormous that ‘the bomb will burst’ in the end. 

Even though this situation is probably quite far away yet, there is definitely a mounting urge for total control of the population among the central and local governments in the European countries: ubiquitous camera surveillance, widespread eavesdropping of telephone and internet traffic, rings of license plate scanners around large cities and crowd control systems are the well-known symptoms of this urge for control.

And when the bomb bursts, a few things can happen then:
  • A “revolution” happens in which the old and useless government is overthrown by a government, based on the sole power of a radical strong man (often a dangerous populist):
    • This strong man either promises that he will guide the country to greener pastures, by removing the objects of the population’s anger (hence: Germany during and after the interbellum or Turkey during these days);
    • Or he promises to get rid of the classic elites in his country (hence: the French and Russian revolutions), as they allegedly caused the dire situation for the population;
  • Something dramatic happens as a large war, a natural catastrophy or a large outbreak of a lethal disease. Such a cleansing process (hence: a purge) provides a necessary ‘reset’ in a country or a continent, making the people understand that they need each other and must learn again to rely on each other;
  • The soft power of a gentle, natural and truly great leader comes over the country and the population unites – more or less – under his influence (hence: Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela); 
  • A revolutionary invention, a newly discovered natural resource or a big paradigm shift brings so much new prosperity to a country, a continent or the world that litterally everybody can profit from it and the money flows upon the ceiling, thus enabling a new social-democrat fundament in the country; 

Suffice it to say that most of these options – perhaps I missed one or two – are either not very desirable or not very plausible to happen.

Even though the answer always lies in politics, it is unfortunately not very plausible either that the current, leading politicians themselves learn to sing another tune, as long as they are at ‘the prosperous, right side of the balance’.

The nature of politics is that the people with money and good societal positions can buy their influence upon politicians in a number of ways, while the less successful majority cannot do so. 

Tell-tale examples of this mechanism are the current American elections and the political situation in the United Kingdom, where the Tory government messed up terribly, but remains in power with almost the same people who messed things up. This is the reason that the established politicans probably won’t change their stance before their political career has ended, the soft or the hard way.

And now about your question: I don’t think that capitalism will be replaced soon by a communist, Maoist or Marxist system, as these systems have also proven to be utterly unfair for the people for which they were meant originally. One unfair system with elites would simply be replaced by another unfair system with different elites, but with generally the same results for the majority of the population.

And a new system, based upon a society without money and an economic foundation, but ‘with liberty, justice and equal information, technology and chances for all’ – like the one that has been discussed during our "in-real-life" meeting a few months ago – I really don’t see that happen yet in my lifetime; even though I am a genuine ‘Trekkie’ (i.e. a classic Star Trek fan) and an idealist.

A dear friend of mine is one of those ‘knights with tinfoil hats’, who believe in a massive, global conspiracy, led by the heirs of the Rothschild family: a conspiracy that should bring the world towards a new world order. 

I, however, don’t believe in that sort of thing...

That is the reason that I believe that some form of capitalism will continue to be 'en vogue' in the Western hemisphere of the world after the depression has ended somewhere in time. 

However, even though I am totally clueless about the kind of capitalism that will emerge after this depression and the possible large-scale events that might come out of this ("let's hope not"), I am convinced that it must be a gentler, more social-democratic capitalism, with more solidarity for the people that are not so lucky in live. 

I truly hope that this gentler capitalism emerges within the EU and the European continent, but we yet have to climb some very dangerous fences for that.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The dangerous void between perception and reality inside (and outside) Europe

It is July 23rd, 2016...

Just another day in the ninth year of the economic depression that has struck the world with a violent, enduring blow.

Roughly one week ago, there has been a truly horrible attack by a Frenchman of Tunisian descent in Nice, France. This man drove a heavy truck through an extremely busy boulevard, crowded with sauntering people – allegedly with a terrorist objective –  thus killing 84 innocent people and dangerously wounding many, many more.

A few days later an Afghan youth in Germany randomly attacked people on a commuter train with an axe. Luckily nobody was killed (yet), but a few people suffered from life-threatening wounds.

And yesterday, we were again witnesses of a disgusting, violent attack against common citizens, claiming the lives of nine innocent people and the perpetrator as well. This time it happened in Munich, Germany. The deed was executed by an Iranian youngster, who was allegedly depressed and full of violent ideas, reputedly gathered by playing violent computer games and as a consequence of doing research into earlier killing sprees in Europe, like the one executed by Anders Breivik on Utoya Island.

While the first two attacks can be described as religiously driven, terrorist attacks, the last youngster was born and raised in Munich and had no connection to any religious terrorist group or organization whatsoever.

At the same time, Dutch, Belgian and German people of Turkish descent are fighting and seriously threatening each other, because of their presumed pro- or anti-Erdoğan stance (i.e. pro-Gülen or pro-Kurdistan) and political orientation, whipped up by the hysterical tone of voice coming from Ankara, since last week’s failed coup d’etat in Turkey.

And in Turkey itself, thousands and thousands of people are either arrested (and perhaps even tortured and murdered) by the police and presidential troops or not allowed to leave the country. Thousands of schools are closed and countless teachers and professors are arrested or fired for having ideas, which are not in line with the official government point of view.

As a matter of fact, it seems that Turkey is dropping deeper and deeper in the abyss of ubiquitous resentment, paranoia and ultra-violent vigilance, that was so distinctive for Russia in the days of Josif Stalin.

At the same time, the situation in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan remains horrible with yet again numerous deadly attacks on crowded, public places and really no end in sight for the massive bloodshed and terrible suffering of the population in these countries in the name of ... whatever.

In the Netherlands, a group of white vigilantes from Northern Europe, called ‘the Soldiers of Odin’, arrived last week to ‘protect our country against violent refugees and asylum seekers...’. A protection offered in a way that reminds us of our darkest moments during the Twentieth Century: “Never mind the swastika tattoos on our bodies. Those are just there because we like them. Nothing more...”.

Extreme right-wing and left-wing parties are winning elections everywhere in Europe, while banging the drum against minorities and the moderate, ‘middle-of-the-road’ right- and leftwing parties in the European countries are really totally clueless regarding the question “what is going on and what we should do about it?!”.

In the United Kingdom, numerous Brexiteers and Bremainers are having really aggressive arguments about who was right and who was wrong and who scr*wed up most before, during and after the referendum in the first place. Longtime friends and even families are litterally divided in pro- and contra-brexiteers, who are simply outraged with each other. In England and Wales, EU-citizens from Eastern Europe really start to feel unsafe in their ‘country of residence’ of the last few years and consider moving out.

And at the same time the new British cabinet of PM Theresa May still think that they can save the day, regarding the European Union and the rest of the world, with ‘a confident smile, a few jokes, a pint of ale and a bag of crisps’.

European and American churches are overloaded with people, who pray for... whatever: France, Germany, Orlando, Nice, Munich, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or perhaps even the United Kingdom. Praying and waiting until the next terrible event occurs.

The mounting nationalism of – IMHO – the unhealthy kind in the European countries (and as a matter of fact far abroad) is yet another tell-tale signal that something is seriously wrong and brewing within Europe. This nationalism and these unhealthy, hostile feelings against other people and groups are often accellerated by the social media, which more and more often work as pressure cookers for formerly undisclosed aggression, anger, resentment and alienation, dividing the world in ‘us and them’.

A total and utter misunderstanding and even ignorance for the situation in which other, less fortunate people reside, as well as scuffles and rants against presumed adversaries, videos with extreme and sickening violence and below-the-belt platitudes about ‘the others’, have simply become too common to see them as isolated incidents.

And even public places of worship for the most common religions have turned into spots where ‘infidels’ and people with other opinions are excluded, ridiculized, taunted and cursed, as would-be casualties in the next ‘holy’ war between ‘us and them’.

Am I the only one here, who thinks that something is seriously wrong inside and outside Europe?!

The most-heard perception among popular economists and politicians is that Europe is definitely on the way up, as far as the economy is concerned. The economy is growing unspectacular, but steady: housing prices go up, employment is going down, exports, trade and commercial services are thriving in most countries and – in spite of a few problems with Italian banks – everything seems hunky-dory, from an economic point of view.

That is, if you don’t take the negative interest rates into consideration, which are haunting the corporate and private savers all over Europe and eat away their nest eggs and retirement plans.

Or the millions and millions of people who are going from one flex-contract to another freelance assignment, without ever having a real outlook towards a steady and secure job with income security and social benefits, enabling them to save money for a rainy day and acquire an income while being sick or retired. People, who are often forced to drop their minimum income demands, in order to win the competition with people from European and Asian low-wage countries.

And thus it seems that there is a massive void between the economic perception that everything economically in the European Union is improving and that consumers and SME companies soon will start spending their income again at one hand and the daily reality that many, many people feel depressed, alienated and scared and desperately want someone or something to take the blame for that at the other hand.

Perhaps the worst development of all is that people with different income scales seem to live more and more in parallel worlds: next to each other, instead of with each other.

Wealthy people live in a superficial, ‘tinseltown’ world of expensive cars, expensive yachts, expensive hotels and restaurants, world cruises, holidays in ‘€1500 per night’, gated and protected resorts with the utmost in privacy, while wearing priceless couture, €75,000 Cartier jewelry  and carrying Louis Vuitton or Hermés bags of €3,500 retail price or more. As long as they can live their lives, they really couldn’t care less about how the others live theirs.

This is a world in which the lower and middle class people in their own company or home country are just as remote as the ‘natives’ in their gated, Mozambique holiday resort: they know these people do exist, but they hardly encounter them ‘in the wild’ anymore.

The lower and middle class people, however, live often in a situation in which discount supermarkets and ‘euro stores’, outlet centres and cheap shopping malls are their last resort to mitigate their addiction to cheap and unhealthy victuals, ‘bling bling’ jewellery, inexpensive consumer goods and household appliances, cheap fashion and shoewear. This is a situation in which there is always ‘too much month for their paycheck’, as well as a constant worrying about the question whether this paycheck will actually arrive or not, due to their flex labour contracts or freelance activities.

A situation in which the ‘losers’ ask themselves what went wrong during their education and subsequent career and where they actually missed the boat to eternal success and entrepreneurship.
This is a situation that cannot endure forever. In the end, something has got to give and that something might cause a lot of commotion when it finally happens.

And what worries me also: right after the Brexit referendum took its shocking and unexpected course, there was a perfect momentum in which brave European politicians could have run the gauntlet and take the worries of the British and European citizens seriously; really, openly and without prejudice and platitudes.

Politicians could have responded to the worried and alienated British and European grassroots with something like: “You gave us a yellow card with your Brexit vote and we have heard and understood this signal very clearly, even though we don’t know yet WHAT you exactly want from us.

In response we will enter into a serious discussion with you about the Europe and the economy that you want and need for the future, while explaining to you our motives for doing the things that we have done in the recent past. We cannot promise you that we can keep everybody happy and satisfied, but we will do our utmost to achieve that”.

Instead it seemed that the European politicians immediately returned to business-as-usual as if nothing really happened. They quarreled endlessly about the future economic consequences of the Brexit, the ongoing refugee-crises, the crisis between the NATO and Russia, the terrorist attacks in Germany and France, the ongoing Turkish crisis and all the other European conundrums of this year 2016, while in fact totally ignoring the signals being sent by the Brexit and the deteriorating moods all over Europe.

Opportunity missed..., game over... Try another time, boy!

The European dream (with the European Union there WAS a real European dream, in my opinion) has in fact morphed into a bureaucratic and economic extravaganza for European business cowboys and lobbyists, bookkeepers, greengrocers and shop-managers without a real feeling of responsibility. People without imagination, a real conscience and compassion and without a clear view on a possible and better future for us all, instead of a wealthy future for themselves and their loved ones alone.

And now we have two opportunities: either we will eventually fall down into a large-scale (perhaps global) catastrophy caused by a neoliberal, capitalist policy gone totally awry, or we elect politicians that are able to find the right path up the hill again, away from the inequality, uncertainty, hatred, paranoia and resentment against the others. 

It is the choice of you and me and all the others: inside and outside Europe.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

President Recep Erdoğan of Turkey blames the United States for their hospitality towards alleged conspirator and motivator of the July 15th coup d’etat, Fethullah Gülen, thus chilling the relation with Washington... Is the NATO under fire?!

Never a dull moment in Turkey, the Mediterranean country with its pivotal role in the Middle East and its strategic position around the Black Sea, where it is keeper of the only entrance to the Mediterranean Sea (and thus to open waters): the Bosporus seagate in the city of Instanbul.

Turkey is arguably the most important member of the NATO defence organization; not only due to the aforementioned strategic position both around the Black Sea and in the Middle-East, but also due to the fact that it has the biggest army outside the United States.

Turkey's current president and former prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pursuing a double, barely hidden agenda after his rise to power that started early in the 21st Century:
  • The expansion and intensification of his political (now presidential) powers, as well as the powers of his AK party (the Justice and Development party), that he founded in 2001.
    • The famous quote of French ruler Louis IV, “l’etat, c’est moi” (i.e. 'I am the state'), seems to be Erdoğan's personal motto; 
  • An sunni-islamic and monotheistic Turkey with little breathing room for Christian, shia-Islamic and non-religious minorities, as well as for the Kurds who remain being seen as 'terrorists';
    • A beacon in and for the Arab world, instead of being a relatively neutral country on the brink between East and West.
    • This means the abolishment of the adamantly secular state, with in it the relative freedom of religion, that has been defended by especially the Turkish army, since the days of Kemal Atatürk. 

While the unmistakable turn of Turkey into a more Middle-Eastern, Islamic, “Arabic” and even dictatorial(?) direction has not been missed by the Western and Russian leaders and media, this was mostly ignored as long as Turkey fulfilled its obligations towards the NATO and the EU and played the massively important role of bridgehead for the Middle East.

European and Russian tourists were still very welcome at the Turkish coastline, where heavily subsidized, “all inclusive” megahotels had clouded the skylines of the coastal cities Antalya, Alanya, Marmaris and Bodrum. 

The fact that the self-indulgent eating and drinking habits of the Western and Russian tourists, as well as their “decadent”, Western clothing style on and off the beaches, were offending the very strict rules of the Islam, was turned a blind eye to by the local authorities. Those tourists brought in a lot of spending money and helped to build up the booming Turkish economy.

And as far as Russian president Vladimir Putin concerned: he understood the mounting hunger for power and increasingly dictatorial trademarks of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but they did not bothered him at first, as long as his civil and war vessels could sail through the Bosporus seagate and his countrymen were welcome in Turkey for their holidays.

This all changed under the influence of an incident, in which a Russian jetfighter – being on a war mission in Syria – was gunned down after crossing the Turkish border during his flight. One of the pilots was killed by Syrian insurgents during his landing attempt with the ejection seat and the other pilot could barely escape alive.

The order to shoot down the Russian plane was initially defended fiercely by President Erdoğan, but an outraged President Putin immediately established a “de facto” boycott of Turkey, by stopping all flights to Turkey and urgently advicing his countrymen to not travel there for their holidays.

In those days, I wrote the following lines:

What matters [...]  is that it has been a reckless and extremely dangerous move of Turkey, which could have dramatically increased the international tensions in the world (and it still could do so in the near future).

To make things worse: both the ego’s of presidents Recep Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin prevent them from simply saying ‘sorry’ and admitting that they have acted ‘wrongly’ in this matter.

No, instead they turn into an international ‘cockfight’ in which they try to punish each other with inconsiderate economic measures (‘an eye for an eye’), loud sabre rattling and political charivari. This would not be a very big problem, when Turkey would not be one of the most prominent NATO members with arguably the most strategic position in the Middle-East, as heeder of the entrance to the Black Sea (through the Bosporus seagate).

Even though the NATO is probably absolutely not willing to risk an ‘all out’ war with Russia, on behalf of Turkey, the odds for this are increasing when the tensions between Russia and Turkey keep on mounting. In one of the most unstable regions in the world, this is almost equal to committing suicide.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems is that both the NATO and the European Union cannot force Turkey to ‘shut up’ and sweet-talk itself into a regained mutual understanding with Russia.

The NATO desperately needs Turkey as an operating base for the Middle East and as entrance for its seafleet to the Black Sea. Arguing with Erdoğan could lead to undesired reactions of the Turkish president.

This confrontation between Russia and prominent NATO member Turkey was a serious crack in the relations between Russia and Turkey at one hand, but also between Turkey and the Western world at the other hand. 

Even though the NATO and the whole Western world openly declared to stand behind their close ally Turkey, some serious frowns were shown in the various Western government seats, when this potentially dangerous event occured.

However, as Turkey reached out a helping hand to the struggling EU – with respect to the refugee conundrum – and Dutch PM Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel established a deal with Erdoğan with respect to taking back illegal Syrian refugees, the situation between Turkey and Europe improved quickly again.

And in a later stage (i.e. a few weeks ago), Erdoğan decided to count his blessings, as he sent out an apology to the Kremlin for the jet fighter incident after all. This apology was received with a benign smile of “Vladimir Vladimirovich“ and an abolishment of the Russian boycott of Turkey followed soon.

  • the closeness of Turkey to the bloody and dangerous civil war in neighbouring country Syria;
  • the war blazing up between the Turkish government and the Kurdian population inside and outside the country (i.e. living in Syria and Iraq);
  • the relative sympathy of president Erdoğan for ALL the adversaries of Syrian president Bashir Assad – not to mention his alleged, candid cooperation with IS, reputedly enabling (illegal) oil trade from the sieged areas of Iraq;
  • and especially a series of very deadly, terrorist attacks at different spots in Turkey, 
made that most foreign tourists – especially the ones of non-Turkish descent – left the country behind as a ‘no go’-area. 

And in spite of Erdoğan’s  apology to the Kremlin, the Turkish president behaved more and more authoritarian and imperative towards the opposition, as well as towards the other religions in his country.

That was the situation until last Friday (e.g. July 15, 2016), when the world was suddenly alarmed by the message that insurgents in the Turkish army had started a coup d’etat attempt against the government of President Erdoğan. 

A few tense hours followed in which different army squadrons fired shots at each other, as well as at civilians, members of parliament and policemen, from helicopters and jet planes. The fate of the president was unclear until Erdoğan suddenly appeared on Turkish television and urged his grassroots – via video and SMS – to massively protest against this coup d’etat. This event was the beginning of the end for the insurgents.

After the coup d’etat was finally over the next day, the Turkish government started a purging process in which not only the army insurgents, but also representatives of the legal system (around 3000 judges and justices) and other ‘enemies of the state’ were arrested and taken away to prisons or large public places (i.e. sports halls) for a (probably brutal) interrogation. 

The opposition of the AK Party, as well as the remaining free media and journalists in Turkey, were intimidated to not comment too loudly upon the destabilizing political situation and the deteriorating human rights in Turkey.

Especially the ubiquitous arrests of insurgents and ‘the political and societal enemies’ of Erdoğan reputedly all happened according to lists, carrying the names of these enemies. Allegedly these lists all had been prepared in advance and they had been ready for usage before the coup d’etat even took place.

Particularly this circumstance spurred the stories and conspiracy theories that the coup d’etat was actually "pre-cooked" and perhaps even a total fake, as it would have been orchestrated by persons within the AK Party itself.

One name for “the person responsible for this coup d’etat” was mentioned very quickly and convincingly by the Turkish government. That was the name of the spiritual leader of the opposition against President Erdoğan: Fethullah Gülen. And that is where the global, political component of this coup d'etat started.

Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim preacher and political leader, has been living in a self-imposed exile in the United States (i.e. in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania) since 1999. Even though Gülen and Erdoğan started as ‘partners in crime’ against the secular government that ruled Turkey at the end of the 20th Century, their relation soured dramatically in 2013 when Erdoğan accused Gülen of spurring an anti-corruption investigation against Erdoğan and his political friends. In return, Gülen was put on a Turkish most-wanted-terrorist list and the United States were asked for his extradition, to which the USA did not comply.

Last Saturday  the day after the coup  the extremely important NATO military airport Incirlik in Turkey (from which the daily barrages of the US in Syria take place) was closed down by the Turkish government. 

For a brief period, it was forbidden for the US to use this airport, as Erdoğan both wanted to punish the US for offering hospitality to Gülen and for “being the alleged masterminds behind this coup”. Besides that, he also wanted to remove possible insurgents within the Turkish airforce from this airbase. 

This temporary closedown of the indispensable NATO airbase Incirlik was a signal that the US government – and as a matter of fact the whole western world, as well as the Kremlin – did not misunderstood!

Kerry was “not amused”, to say the least, about the ongoing purge in Turkey, as well as the emerging situation regarding the NATO airbase and the accusations and threats uttered by Recep Erdoğan in the aftermath of the coup d’etat. The following snippets were printed in Foreign Policy:

Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Turkish government Monday that its actions could have consequences for the NATO alliance if it goes too far with its ongoing purge of thousands of military personnel, judges, and police officers accused of involvement in last weekend’s failed coup attempt.

The U.S. diplomat’s remarks, delivered at a meeting of the European Union’s 28 foreign ministers, came as authorities acting on behalf of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan  sacked more than 8,000 police officers and officials in a massive effort launched in the aftermath of the coup, according to the Washington Post and Reuters.

“A lot of people have been arrested and arrested very quickly,” Kerry told journalists. “The level of vigilance and scrutiny is going to be very significant in the days ahead.”

“We will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice but we also caution against a reach that goes beyond that and stress the importance of the democratic rule being upheld,” Kerry said.

That all is a diplomatic way to say that the “sh*t is hitting the fan”, as far as American Secretary of State John Kerry is concerned.

Even though the 'Incirlik' NATO base closedown was not mentioned in the Foreign Policy article, it must have made a real dent in the American trust in their Turkish NATO partner. Not being able to use Incirlik airbase means that nearly all NATO operations in the Middle East are close to ‘impossible’.

And that was that...

Little more than half a year ago, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey managed to infuriate the Russians with his gung ho attack upon the Russian jet fighter, after it illegally crossing the Turkish borders. In spite of the cautious ‘détente’ between Turkey and Russia starting after Erdoğan’s apology towards the Kremlin, the political situation between these countries is yet far from normal again.

And now Erdoğan has alienated the American government with: 
  • his accusations and demands, regarding Fethullah Gülen and the American role in the failed coup d'etat;
  • his temporary closedown of Incirlik airbase and;
  • his dramatic, allegedly ‘precooked’ purge within his country, in which he hunts down all his political enemies and even wants to reinstate the death penalty for the insurgents. 

European countries with large Turkish population groups, like Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, intensely feel the effects of the coup d’etat on their own home turf. Erdoğan badgered the pro-AK party groups in these countries to protest against the pro-Gülen groups. Fierce protests and small riots in a few  large cities within these countries were the result of Erdoğan’s call.

And so the failed coup d'etat might have long-lasting political implications on a global scale.

Nevertheless: to the uninformed reader it might seem that Erdoğan is getting into a more and more difficult position, after alienating both Russia and the United States. And of course, there WILL be a few cracks in their relations with Turkey. But please look at things objectively:
  • Turkey is the gateway to the Middle East and is a leading and authorative country in that area;
  • Incirlik is an indispensable airbase for NATO operations, for which there is hardly an alternative now and in the distant future;
  • Istanbul is the gateway to the Black Sea for both Russia (i.e. to get out of it) and the United States (i.e. to get into it);
  • Turkey is protecting Europe from massive numbers of refugees. These refugees can and will be used as “leverage”, when Europe does not play the right tune towards Erdoğan's ears;
  • Turkey is the second largest NATO partner with the second largest and second most versatile army. Turkey being kicked out of the NATO would leave a void with the size of a large meteorite crater. This will therefore never happen;
  • President Erdoğan’s authority among the Turkish population, inside and outside his home turf, is nearly undisputed, as the failed coup has proven.
    • Unless Erdoğan is removed by a successful (!) coup in the coming months or years, he will maintain playing a pivotal role in the world for these very reasons. 

Whatever happens in the aftermath of the Turkish coup d’etat, the United States, Europe and Turkey will remain close partners inside and outside the NATO. 

Not out of mutual “love and compassion”, but out of sheer necessity for all parties involved, as they need each other desperately. Every other outcome is highly unlikely...

Friday, 15 July 2016

Boris Johnson, Nice and the situation in the world...

Yesterday, France was shocked by yet another sickening terrorist attack. This time the sunny, Mediterranean city of Nice witnessed a giant massacre, when a rogue truck driver ploughed his way through a crowded boulevard on the 14th of July – the French national remembrance day – trying to hit and kill as many people as possible.

By doing so, the alleged terrorist (or psychopath) killed 84 men, women and children and dangerously wounded many, many more. Words fail to express my distress and anger about yet another bloody attack against innocent civilians by yet another lunatic with a grand vision of getting even with, whatever...

... and the fresh Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, decided a few days earlier that the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson,  was the best man to become Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the UK.

The situation in Eastern Europe is getting out of hand, as the Russian Federation and the NATO seem on a collision course, in the aftermath of the occupation of Crimea by the Russian army and the subsequent civil war in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Hawks in the governments of the Baltic States, Ukraine and Poland urge the NATO to expand its presence in their countries and the NATO itself sees this as a golden opportunity to regain power and influence, as well as a new raison d’etre, as the latter had vanished at the end of the Cold War. The tone of voice of the NATO against Russia is increasingly loud and shrill and its siren’s call for new member states is luring countries like Georgia and Ukraine.

The European Union is maintaining their economic boycotts against Russia and the cry within the Union to establish a pan-European army sounds louder and louder. And both the EU and the NATO seem ‘birds of a feather, who flock together’ to the eyes of the common Russian.

The Russian Federation itself, represented by its power-hungry, corrupted and blunt, mucho-macho President Vladimir Putin, feels threatened by the increasing presence of the NATO in its backyard. In return the country is uttering hardly covered threats to the Eastern European countries and the West in general.

The whole situation in Eastern Europe is like a leaking powder keg in an arsenal, of which all parties hope that nobody lights the fuse by accident...

... but Theresa May couldn’t find a more capable man for the sensitive Foreign Affairs portfolio than the former journalist of the Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson... A man, who has been making up stories about the EU and about the way the EU operated in Brussels; out of sheer calculation and hunger for money and success. That all these stories where blatant lies and ruined the image of the EU in his home country, Boris Johnson did not care about at all.

The presidential campaign for the successor of the moderately successful and not very strong president Barack Obama in the United States of America, is fought between:
  • a lady with a serious security problem and a legacy of too many “dead bodies” floating around everywhere, coming from her earlier political career as Foreign Minister and First Lady. A lady, who is quite capable at her job, but not loved and trusted anymore...
  • and a Gung Ho business man of questionable repute with a loud mouth, crazy ideas and a lot of bad jokes. A man, who seems to be the poor man’s hero, unless these poor men are either of Mexican or Arab descent or belong to other minority groups. And a man who is at best(!) not very respectful towards women.

Both presidential candidates have an awkward past and many political enemies inside, as well as political adversaries outside their countries; in Congress, but also in the Arab world, the Far East and the Russian Federation. Both candidates need to walk on eggs in the future, but might eventually not possess the capabilities for doing that.

Their closest ally and that of their country – the UK – could help them a lot in the process by finding the best and most capable Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. A man who could revive the special relation between the United States and the United Kingdom...

... and fortunately, PM Theresa May managed to bind the former conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Boris Johnson: the man who was extremely successful in leading its country to the exit of the EU with his Brexit campaign. And also the man, who subsequently ran like hell when he was caught with his (political) ‘pants hanging below his knees’, as he finally understood what the consequences of his actions were.

Theresa May chose a man with a past as a blatantly lying journalist and a cowardlike stance after the Brexit. A man, who was probably not the worst mayor of London in history and perhaps even a quite good one, but nevertheless...

Does ‘the new Margaret Thatcher’ of the United Kingdom, PM Theresa May, really think that Boris Johnson will stand his ground in the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin or his henchman, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov?

Or when he visits Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the power-hungry and designated president-for-life of Turkey? The man whose country is indispensable for the NATO, but who has his own hidden agenda to follow? An agenda that might damage or even endanger the Western interests?!

Or in the presence of Chinese president Xi Jinping, perhaps, who is willing to defend his newly occupied islands in the South Chinese Sea with brutal force against the Philippines, Vietnam and perhaps even the United States?!

And does ‘Iron Maggie 2.0’ think that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the 27 EU countries are trusting Boris Johnson in situations, where the EU and the UK need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and defend their commonly shared interests?! The man who pushed EU member the United Kingdom into the Brexit, before crying for his mother and subsequently playing political hide-and-seek?!

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going” is the tendency of this popular expression.

Well, the terrible events in Nice showed that the going is getting extremely tough at this moment...

... and Theresa May, in a massive response to the chaotic events after the Brexit referendum, made Boris Johnson the new Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. 

The tough are perhaps going indeed..., but definitely not in the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Goodbye to the ‘mainports’ Schiphol Amsterdam Airport and the Port of Rotterdam. Welcome to the Dutch ‘Brainport’ locations and innovations centres that yield the real ‘high added value’ jobs.

Roughly one year ago, I wrote an article in which I ‘complained’ that the emphasis in The Netherlands was lying on ‘low added value’ distribution and commercial jobs, with regard to goods, services and internet hosting:

My point is that – in my humble opinion – The Netherlands increasingly turns into a country, which picks up the breadcrumbs that other countries, large companies and institutions leave for it. Very efficient and cost-effective in the execution of its job, but increasingly harmless as a competitor in heavyweight technological areas, in which the real money is earnt.

Instead of standing on its own two feet with its own products, innovations and a substantial number of globally leading companies, the country seems to become more and more satisfied with being the Olympic Champion of the Servants. To me, that is a worrisome development:
  • As the focus of The Netherlands increasingly lies on the low-cost distribution of imported goods and bulky materials – domestically as well as all over Europe – through cargo vessels and trucks, The Netherlands has seemingly turned into the official ‘mailman’ of China and the Far East: cautiously taking care that every consignment is delivered at the perfect place and perfectly on time, but with a relative importance that is becoming more and more futile;
  • With its massive web of tax rulings and its generally favourable fiscal legislation with many mischievous loopholes in it, The Netherlands is the spider in the web for multinationals, large popgroups (f.i. U2 or Rolling Stones) and wealthy persons to avoid (‘some say’ evade) their corporate and income taxes; 
  • This led to a host of ‘fake’ head-offices and letter-box firms in the country, that are simply there to easily avoid taxes; not for the entrepreneurial atmosphere in The Netherlands;
  • And last, but not least, another new spearhead in The Netherlands is data storage, hosting and data distribution for large internet companies and internet services providers. The consequence is that The Netherlands is currently establishing a massive data hosting infrastructure (i.e. internet backbones) and large number of data storage centers for companies as Microsoft, Google, Amazon and the likes of them.

While one could easily disqualify last year’s call of mine as ‘the usual stuff from a professional agitator with an obstinate opinion’, I received a few endorsements from unsuspicious sources during the last two weeks.

On July 1st, 2016, the daily newspaper Volkskrant printed a summary of a report from the official Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure:

'Cabinet lays too much emphasis upon the importance of Schiphol and the Port of Rotterdam for The Netherlands.

Even though this claim is often made, Schiphol and the Port of Rotterdam are actually not the main driving forces of the Dutch economy. In order to improve the climate for the establishment of businesses in The Netherlands, the national government should not only make their ‘usual’ investments in those two ‘mainports’. Only aiming at volume growth of Schiphol and the Port of Rotterdam is not what ‘tomorrow’s economy’ demands from the Dutch government'.

This was stated by the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (RLI), in an official advice that was offered to the Cabinet last Friday. Under the tell-tale title ‘Beyond the mainports’, the official advisory body added question marks to the permanent growth ambitions of Schiphol and the Port of Rotterdam. The addition of these mainports to the Dutch economic growth is less significant than Cabinets tend to think, is concluded by the Council.

The indirect added value of Schiphol to the Dutch economy in 2015 was roughly €9 billion. That is 1.4% of the Dutch Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which stands for the production of all goods and services within The Netherlands, including those by foreign companies. The Port of Rotterdam adds another 3.1% to that GDP, but the port is in a declining trend nowadays.

Only governing towards expansion of goods and human traffic flows via those two ports is senseless, according to the advisory body. ‘The climate for business establishment in The Netherlands is decided by many more factors than Schiphol and Rotterdam alone'.

For instance the ‘Brainport Region Eindhoven’ is getting increasingly important as economic core area for The Netherlands and it can show better growth rates than the two aforementioned mainports.

And, as a genuine bombshell in favour of my argument from last year, there was an interview with the retired Professor Albert Pols of the Delft’ Institute of Technology, printed in Het Financieele Dagblad on Saturday, 9 July. Here are the pertinent snippets:

“Either I was twenty years too early or the Council was twenty years too late”. 

Nevertheless, Albert Pols, retired Professor Design and Planning at the Delft’ Institute of Technology (TU Delft), feels himself endorsed in his opinion that the Dutch mainport policy is a waste of money.

In 1997, Albert Pols – in a report on behalf of the Scientific Council on Government Policy (i.e. WRR) – heavily criticized the Dutch mainport policy. Already then, he judged that everything was wrong about the official strategy to position The Netherlands as a distribution stronghold.

Pols was an adamant adversary of the large infrastructural projects of the Nineties, in order to reinforce those two mainports: 
  • the establishment of the  ‘Betuwelijn’ (i.e. a special railway to Germany for the transport of bulky goods, coming from Rotterdam) or
  • the establishment of the Tweede Maasvlakte (i.e. new land, created through drainage, that was developed for industrial establishment and container shipping for the Port of Rotterdam). 
Those huge investments  north of €25 billion  would have had more effect, when the money had been invested in education and the development of new technologies (hence: nano technology).

“Rotterdam took its chance to (ab)use the mainport concept as an advertizing slogan. It was in fact advertizing malpractice, as Rotterdam never became a mainport in the first place and will actually never become one.

A mainport is a sea junction where cargo is concentrated and subsequently redistributed to other ports all over the globe. Singapore is an example of a mainport. 

However, in spite of their mainport policy, Rotterdam always remained a common transit port. Rotterdam became large as a transit port for coal and iron ore to the German ‘hinterland’. As a matter of fact, Rotterdam is 'the largest port of Germany'. For German stateowned companies, it was much easier to store their stockpiles of coal and iron ore in Rotterdam, than on their own ‘backyard’.

It is an utter illusion that "we" (i.e. the Dutch) are so good in logistics... 

When the government came up with the mainport policy, the electronics company Philips was clutching at straws and Fokker (i.e. a former Dutch avionics company) was already in deep, deep trouble. Unemployment was high. 

Infrastructure had to become the main driving force for the 21st Century. Education and research both suffered from fierce austerity measures set by the Dutch government and a shedload of money was invested in infrastructure instead, as ‘we were so successful in doing that’. Well, we have seen that. All our national, logistical players WITH added value have now vanished from the face of the earth: Nedlloyd, NS Cargo. And container terminal ECT is now owned by the Chinese.

Besides that, the margin in transport is minimal. The added value lies at the sender and the recipient of those goods; not in the hands of the distributor.

The Netherlands would have been better off, when we would have invested that money (i.e. the €25 billion invested in the mainports - EL) differently, or for instance would have reduced the corporate taxes with it. 

Which are today’s winners?! The answer has nothing to do with mainport development. The competition for added value is decided at the development of new products and services, with as a driving force the potential for innovation and the ample availability of venture capital”.

Professor Albert Pols is of course totally right with his observations regarding the mainports Rotterdam and Schiphol, that he made in the Nineties, as well as in the interview. The storage and distribution jobs that the Port of Rotterdam enables are of course decent jobs for the people that have them. Nevertheless, by sheer nature there is very little added value stored in these jobs. As the professor stated: ”The added value lies at the sender and the recipient of those goods; not in the hands of the distributor”.

Although professor Albert Pols did not state that explicitely, he probably also recognizes the fact that The Netherlands being ‘China’s mailman in Europe’, is neither very 'honourable' nor valuable for the country. Neither is The Netherlands being 'Germany’s warehouse manager'.

Through Rotterdam (as well as through other European ports), China is flooding Europe with its vast steel surplusses, sold at dumping prices nowadays. And also with shedloads of plastic and sheet metal household appliances, electr(on)ic toys, inexpensive consumer goods and cheap home electronics of often very poor quality.

Most of these goods are sold via toy stores and inexpensive department stores, as well as via the numerous discounters and outlet stores that are conquering Europe like wasps during a sunny garden party.

Especially those cheap, poor quality goods and plastic toys have a very negative effect on the amount of waste produced within the European Union, as they are often tossed away only hours or days after being purchased or presented: already broken and unrepairable and (therefore) utterly useless, plastic waste.

Therefore I fully endorse the professor’s message that the Port of Rotterdam is perhaps not the indispensable economic stronghold that The Netherlands needs more than anything else in the country.

The same goes for Schiphol. It is now a quite successful airport, which gains a lot of (in)direct, low and higher level service and distribution jobs for The Netherlands. Therefore it undoubtedly is an economic stronghold in The Netherlands.

Nevertheless, Schiphol is involved in a cat fight with the national airports of Turkey and Dubai – for transit passengers and international cargo  that it probably cannot win eventually, as the latter two are heavily subsidized by their respective governments and attract more and more attention within the aviation industry. The result would be an inevitable reduction in the number of transit passengers and cargo and thus economic decline for Schiphol.

And there is more. In the remainder of the FD article (see the aforementioned link), which I did not print here, the professor rejected the current plans for a seventh runway for Schiphol.

He is right! With six runways Schiphol already has more runways than most other airports in the world. Airports like O’Hare (Chicago), Heathrow (London) and Narita (Tokyo) serve many more airplanes and passengers with (much) less runways.

Myself, I have a sneaky suspicion that this seventh runway – and the accompanying, new passenger terminal that will be developed much closer to the city centre of Amsterdam – are rather meant as catalysts for the development of new commercial real estate on Schiphol’s turf, than out of sheer necessity for a safe and quick passenger handling. Especially when Schiphol’s plans to move the charter flights to Lelystad Airport will be continued indeed. Please remember where you read it first.

So let’s hope that the government listens indeed to Albert Pols. And indeed invests the money in better education, as well as in research and innovation. 

There is enough potential for innovation and research present in The Netherlands. Not only in the Brainport Eindhoven, but also in other Dutch hotspots where universities, research centres and innovative companies join their forces. As particularly those efforts will yield the real, new jobs with real added value for the country.

Please let China’s mailman do his job, as he is very good at it... 

But don’t forget to invest the government funds where they really make a difference. And that difference is not made at Schiphol or the Port of Rotterdam. 

Scout’s honour!

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Does the ‘detached society’ in the construction industry indeed lead to a much higher number of fatal accidents in 2016? Or is it just ‘statistical coincidence’?!

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the detached society in The Netherlands. It was a story about leading, large companies, which are liable for their core business and/or key projects, but leave the execution and the ‘de facto responsibility’ to an opaque group of subcontractors and freelance professionals from all over Europe.  One of the protagonists in this article was construction company Van Wijnen:

Also Van Wijnen, the main contractor responsible for the construction of the distribution centre, has hardly any of their own people walking around on the terrain. The company guides 50 subcontractors and suppliers, which are all specialized in one particular part of the building process. Project manager Pieter Lammé at Van Wijnen is one of the few people who has a clear view on the big picture during the construction activities.

“When I started at Van Wijnen, 38 years ago, we still had masons, concrete workers, painters, crane operators and installers on our payroll”, according to Lammé. “Nowadays, we outsource all this specialist labour to other companies and freelancers. We are only directing the project”.

This is really shocking, when you let this text sink in to you:
One of the largest construction companies in The Netherlands only acts as a director in a feature film, who guides a bunch of leading actors and extras into making a notable performance, but does not feel ultimately involved in the quality of the final result?! It is almost like the people of [...] Van Wijnen are ‘accidental bystanders' in their own business processes.

This way, running a construction company is turning into running a trading and brokerage company; something that one can do, without ever having experience with bricks and mortar, concrete and steel at all. One just needs to bring together the principal with the chosen architecture, suppliers, structural engineers, freelance building professionals and executive engineers, as well as building materials and other supplies. That's all!

And what about the staff themselves, working for these companies? What will be their part in this deal?
Perhaps they are foreign workers from Eastern Europe or the Far East. People, who are deployed through (sometimes shady) ‘temporary labour organizations’, whilst hoping for a better future for them and their families.

I had to think about this particular article, when I stumbled upon the following news message from the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment (“SZW” | news message originally in Dutch):

Right before the so-called ‘Constructor’s holiday’ (i.e. ‘bouwvak ‘ in Dutch – EL), there must be extra attention for safety!

During 2016HY1, the number of serious accidents in the construction industry rose by 14% and the number of lethal accidents even soared with 56%, in comparison with 2015HY1. The number of complaints under investigation and signals is 16% higher. The weeks just before the constructor’s holiday are a dangerous period in which extra attention for safety is necessary, especially now that the number of accidents is rising.

The largest number of serious accidents (42%), as well as lethal incidents (50%), in the construction industry took place within the common civil and utility building sector. Apart from that, the subsectors with the highest accident rate within the construction industry are excavation work, work on electro-technical building installations, demolition work, plumbing and painting, with 4-7% of the serious accidents and 10-20% of the lethal accidents in the building industry. Consequently construction belongs to the three most dangerous industries in The Netherlands.

Of all the accidents investigated by the labour inspection, it became clear that in a quarter of the accidents there was no direct supervision at the building site. [...]

“Both scale up and building sites changing in conglomerates of supervisors, workers, temporary workers and freelancers, increase the odds for accidents. Besides Dutch, many other languages like Polish, Romanian and English are spoken at the building site. As a consequence, miscommunication does occur. We see more and more constructors walking around at the building site, for whom it is not clearly arranged at all, WHO is actually responsible for their safety?! Also viable cooperation agreements lack between parties”, according to Marga Zuurbier, director Labour circumstances of the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment (SZW)

There you have it!

Of course one has to be careful with statistics: when the absolute number of accidents is actually very small, a small increase in absolute numbers could lead to dramatic shifts in percentages.
Therefore it is a shame that in this case the absolute numbers are not mentioned in an attached statistics table.

Yet, I think that it is safe to state that also the absolute numbers of (lethal) incidents are substantial in the building industry, as it is a large industry with a lot of people working in it on a daily basis. That makes these increasing numbers so worrisome: they could be ‘just simple coincidence’, but the odds for that are not very big, in my humble opinion.

With the aforementioned story of ‘construction-director-without-constructors-on-the-payroll’ Van Wijnen in mind, it is impossible not to see the big picture behind these shocking accident data from the labour inspection: construction companies don’t seem to FEEL responsible for their workers anymore! Or, as I said in the older article: they are “accidental bystanders” in their own core activities! They just happen to be around!

It is like the both report and Marga Zuurbier of the Labour Inspection state (see red and bold text):
  • in a quarter of the accidents, there was no direct supervision at the building site;
  • Building sites changed in conglomerates of supervisors, workers, temporary workers and freelancers;
  • There is a constant Babylonian confusing going on at the building sites, with all these different languages being used by the different worker groups;
  • We see more and more people walking at the building site, of which we don’t know who is ultimately responsible for their safety.

For me these soaring numbers of (non-)lethal accidents, as well as the circumstances at the time and place of occurance, are definitely symptoms of the detached society, which I painted in my first article.

It is a very bad and dangerous development when main contractors (i.e. employers-in-chief(!)) A. don’t arrange the safety and physical wellbeing of their workers on the building sites and B. themselves not keep a “laser-guided eye” on that, in spite of the fact that they are ultimately responsible for ALL their workers.

Of course I don’t know whether construction company Van Wijnen itself is involved either in such accidents or in such poor employer’s behaviour at the building sites. I simply can’t proof this, just based upon the statistical data mentioned in this article from the labour inspection. 

The only thing that I know is that Van Wijnen is one of the poster companies, with respect to the detached society, as well as of the possibly deadly consequences that such a detached society could have for the people and workers involved.