Thursday, January 26, 2012

Everything's for sale

During my relatively short time of interacting with Dutch people one thing has become quite clear - they are excellent sales people. Well, signing the treaty of Breda where they agreed to exchange New York for some sugar fields in Suriname was not maybe the winner deal of the 17th century, but besides that I think it must be somehow in their blood. Combined with persistence and creativeness they are probably really the one nation that can sell sand to the Saharan's and ice for building igloo's in Greenland. I also get the feeling it is not about getting the money, but about the whole process itself. Maybe the chase is better than the catch?

One great example where the salesmanship and creativity is combined is news from 2009. Belgium was struggling with its prison capacity. Apparently there are either not many prisons or then the Belgians have just had it and are now on a crime committing spree. Whichever is the case, they were thinking of how to solve this. The Dutch immediately saw a possibility to make some extra money. By conincidence, there was some free capacity in the prisons of the Netherlands. Since the Netherlands and Belgium are neighboring countries (and relatively small in geographical size) why not provide the supply for the others demand?

The Dutch and the Belgians formed a deal, where the Netherlands would rent out their free cell capacity to the Belgians. This brings nice 30 million a year more to the Dutch government plus secures the jobs of the Dutch prison workers. Everybody wins! There were also few practicalities to solve, such as in Belgium you can visit an inmate three times a week and in the Netherlands only once a week. Of course, you want to keep some standards and with 30 million euros a year I'm sure they ended up having a nice deal where the achieved benefits of Belgian prisoners would not be lowered. What is weird though, that before the Belgians started flocking to the Netherlands, all the Dutch prisoners were moved to other prisons. Maybe it's like between Finland and Sweden, it is too risky to have Dutch and Belgians together in confined spaces for too long..

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