It was 1990, and I was taking the macroeconomic politics seminars Prof. Frans Rutten was in charge of, but some of the seminars were taught by Jarig van Sinderen. He was an inspired lecturer. I think this is when I was infected with my love for the combination of policy and science. What I always liked about Jarig was his attempt to employ science to underpin policies. He was a firm believer in evidence-based solutions for society.
I was one of the very first persons Jarig asked to join the OCFEB, an institute he worked hard to get off the ground. It was a place where scientists and policy-makers who liked science collaborated. We had a wonderful time. Initially, we were completely free to carry out any research projects we liked. Later we were guided by a well-thought-out research programme. Sadly, the OCFEB no longer exists but that definitely wasn’t Jarig’s fault. He was very sad about its demise.
In 2004 I was awarded a PhD for a dissertation on waste that I’d worked on under Jarig’s supervision. I owe a great deal to the many discussions we had on the various chapters. He didn’t just want every chapter to be well argued, but also wanted there to be a recurring theme tying all the chapters together. And of course we solved the many economic problems the Netherlands was facing whenever we got together. No matter whether we were discussing the excessive tax burden, the increasingly large national debt, the jobs deficit, impending inflation or the lack of housing, we had solutions to all those problems.
When I was an MP, I would once again run into him occasionally. By now he was the chief economist at the Netherlands Competition Authority, the predecessor of the current Authority for Consumers and Markets. Once he argued against the European proposal that we conclude production and price agreements for the agriculture section. I think that was the only time I didn’t openly address that I knew him. However, that was Jarig to a T. He always talked openly about how he felt about things, whether his opinions were deemed acceptable or not.
I regularly met with Jarig in the last two years. In association with Emiel Maasland, we were trying to re-establish the Erasmus Competition and Regulation Institute (ECRi). Very recently, we had been awarded a framework contract by the Irish government. He attended his last ECRi meeting towards the end of September. On 24 September we received the horrible news that he had suddenly passed away. It felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. Many of us were. We will remember Jarig as a man who always empathised and sympathised – in bad times as well as good times. He was 100% supportive. We will also remember him for being a scientist who connected the fields of policy and science. In that regard, his legacy will live on.
Elbert Dijkgraaf is a professor of empirical economics of the public sector at Erasmus School of Economics. ESB previously published another In Memoriam for Jarig van Sinderen that he previously co-wrote with Raymond Gradus: https://esb.nu/esb/20060995/jarig-van-sinderen-beleidseconoom-pur-sang.