Advisors: Amsterdam population must double to be competitive

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Dutch cities are too small to boost the economy. The population of Amsterdam would have to double for the Netherlands to match international competition. This would have a negative effect on other Dutch cities, but would be good for the Netherlands as a whole.

This is according to Zef Hemel, professor of metropolitan issues at the University of Amsterdam, and Frank van Oort, professor of urban economics in Utrecht and Rotterdam, in an interview with Trouw on Wednesday. According to them, large cities are indispensable for economic growth.

In April Minister Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs talked about his plans to strengthen the cities. According to the Minister, the Netherlands must be considered as a metropolitan network. If there is proper cooperation, he thinks that such a network can compete with major world cities.

Hemel doubts whether such a metropolitan network will work. According to him, for a city to compete against major world cities, it must contain many highly educated people with specialized knowledge who meet each other face to face. This would be impossible in such a vast network city. Hemel thinks that Plasterk would do better to work on growing Amsterdam into a cosmopolitan city with 2 million inhabitants - double the current population. The rest of the Netherlands can then piggyback on Amsterdam's success.

Van Oort is less pessimistic. He thinks that such a network city could succeed. But it would require a lot of cooperation, something he does not see happening in the current situation. "Frankly, there is no governing body that substantially knows enough to make it successful." He agrees that making Amsterdam one big city is probably a better bet.