November 19, 2017

Life happens outside. In the districts, in the businesses

On the picture Mr. Karsten Klein. Photography by Valerie Kuypers.

Karsten Klein likes to ‘escape’ from City Hall. Visiting innovative businesses, cycling to shopping centres that are working hard on innovation and improvement, start-ups brimming with energy. But also going to see institutions and organisations doing their best to provide health care and support for The Hague’s residents.

“A large part of my work is at City Hall, but life naturally happens outside. In the city. In the districts, in the business parks. In the institutions. And it’s important that I’m there too. Not just to show interest, but also to hear what they need,” says the 40-year-old resident of The Hague who has represented the CDA as deputy mayor of The Hague for the past eight years.

Over the past four years, Karsten Klein’s portfolios in the Municipal Executive were Economic Affairs, Harbours, Welfare and Health and the city district of Scheveningen. Four intensive years. With a coalition agreement entitled The Hague’s Power, the five parties steered the ship towards a new future. The coalition had three priorities: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Moving towards a knowledge economy

“And we’ve worked really hard to achieve that,” says Klein. “Over the past few years, nearly 10,000 jobs have been created. For a long time, The Hague largely relied on the many government organisations based in the city. In recent years, the government has reduced its influence and we felt that in The Hague. That’s why we launched a mission to present The Hague as an attractive base for a number of innovative sectors.”

So now The Hague is moving towards an internationally competitive knowledge economy. “Take The Hague Security Delta, for example, as well as finance and legal and energy. We welcome start-ups that not only want to make money, but also want to make the world a better place. These two aspects are very compatible and in recent years, financers have proved keen to invest their money in these joint goals. And that fits in very well with The Hague as International City of Peace and Justice. The government is still an important employer, but The Hague is increasingly becoming an attractive city for these kinds of businesses.”

And the many international organisations have a strong and growing significance for the economy of The Hague, according to research. Klein: “Our region is home to around 200 international organisations and 160 embassies and consulates. They employ over 20,000 people who not only work in The Hague, but the majority of whom also live and spend their leisure time in The Hague. In economic terms, that’s an important factor.”

Investing in the ‘green’ city

With all its advantages and amenities, the city is important to the business environment. “The Hague is a safe and beautiful city with a good quality of life. A green city with clean and attractive shopping centres, great theatres, a fantastic Museum Quarter and good education. International schools and places of worship as well. And our small and medium-sized enterprises are of a high standard. Not surprisingly, four of our shopping centres have been nominated for the title ‘Best shopping centre in the Netherlands’. For businesses, it’s important that their employees are happy. This is another thing we have invested a lot in over the past few years.”

During the past period, Karsten Klein has also encouraged a great deal of investment in The Hague as a city which is friendly to senior citizens. “And that’s a very broad area. From museums and theatres which take into account the wishes of senior citizens to health care and support.”

As is the case with every deputy mayor, Karsten Klein’s portfolio includes a city district. “Mine is Scheveningen, which I love. Scheveningen is a special district. The people who live there, the business climate, the connection with the sea. I enjoy being there. As a city, we must nurture Scheveningen. That makes us unique. We are the only international city with such a resort and such a coastline. That’s why I’m looking forward to the celebrations in 2018 to mark 200 years as a bathing resort. As a city, we have a budget available for the event, but I’m convinced that it will more than recoup our investment.”

But as it moves towards a population of 600,000, The Hague is obviously not without its problems. “Too many people still depend on the municipality for their income. That’s not good. We need more jobs at the lower end of the labour market. So that’s one of our priorities.”

“I’m not done here yet”

In March 2018, Karsten Klein’s second period as deputy mayor comes to an end. He is keen to add a third. “Absolutely. I’m not done here yet. We’ve been able to move the city towards the future, but a city like this doesn’t stay quiet. You constantly have to give it attention. But first the elections. It’s not up to me whether I stay or not. That’s for the voters to decide.”

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