You are currently an entrepreneur, and you haven’t been on the council before. Are you turning into a politician yet?
No, not yet, and I hope I won’t any time soon. I am first and foremost an entrepreneur. That is my main job. This is just something I do on the side. I love being my party’s top candidate, but I don’t really feel like a politician.
Do you think you will continue to be able to do both things at once?
We’ll see. I do know one thing: I don’t give up quickly and I make things work. I think it’s vital that councillors also have a job keeping them grounded in society. Politicians in The Hague and Brussels are all stuck in their own bubble. Keep your feet grounded in the muck and you will have a much better idea of whom you’re working for.
You became an entrepreneur right after graduating and you continue to be an entrepreneur today. And now you’ve also become VVD’s local leader in Rotterdam. Being in that position, how do you feel about the kind of education students currently receive at universities?
At present, universities are focusing on getting students ready for post-doctoral positions. There should be a greater focus on getting students ready for the job market. I was involved in the drafting of the new education vision. The university asked myself and three other alumni to tell our stories about that. I really want to point out here that it’s absolutely crucial that we learn how to fail. We must teach students how to fail as well as how to succeed, because at the end of the day, that will prove more helpful to them. Right now, they’re not being taught how to fail nearly enough.
International students seem to be incredibly important to universities at present. Do you think that, in terms of focus, universities are striking the right balance between Dutch students and international students?
I can’t say for sure whether the balance is off. However, Dutch universities’ revenue model may cause the balance to be off. Our revenue model is all about how many students attend a university. It should be about how many good people a university can provide to the job market. The money should be distributed on the basis of a university’s output rather than on the basis of its number of students.
Last November, Mayor Aboutaleb stated in AD that Rotterdam wishes to experiment with weed vending machines. Will this constitute the next step in Dutch coffee shop policy?
I think the provision of weed should not be a government task. The government should refrain from doing so. I think Aboutaleb is taking things too far in this respect. However, I do think we should allow companies to grow legalised weed. If that happens, we will have to draw up proper agreements with our neighbouring countries, so as to prevent mass drug tourism. This will not be an easy solution, but I think we have to prevent the government from creating municipal weed farms.
A new memo on restaurants and cafés was passed last autumn. What is your party’s policy with regard to restaurants and cafés?
We feel they can be allowed greater flexibility if they can handle it. [We are in favour of] greater flexibility for entrepreneurs, as long as they take their responsibility for any inconvenience this may cause. This model has been tested, and the test results have been very positive. Freedom and responsibility are communicating vessels. As far as this is concerned, VVD likes to remind people of the basic tenets of liberalism: great freedom, along with great responsibility.
Last year, we had a municipal referendum on the Housing Vision policy document. What is your party’s view on housing, and how does student housing figure in it?
I don’t want to get into the Housing Vision right now, but as far as housing is concerned, I think it’s very important that more mid-priced houses for young professionals be constructed. For several decades, people who had got a degree in Rotterdam left for other cities after graduating. This has changed. It is great for the city that more highly educated people now wish to stay in Rotterdam. When highly educated people stay in a city to work there, more jobs are created at all levels. For instance, if Coolblue hires a programmer with a degree from a university or university of applied sciences, another job may be created for a graduate from a VET college working in logistics. However, in order to encourage people to stay here, we will first have to build more houses.
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