Mohammed bin Salman, the not-to-be-forgotten boss of Saudi Arabia, is working on something new: NEOM. When we watched NEOM.com, we were waiting for Matt Damon to announce a new Elysium movie. Neom, however, is hard reality. It is a new city (or state actually) where the hyper-rich can withdraw. The site tells a lot about ecological and economic development, quality of life, safety and unimaginable opportunities for neomnists. Bin Salman is making available $ 500 billion in the next 7 to 10 years, according to the site.
It sounds like the ideal state. A place where, thanks to technology and a lot of money, life is a lot safer and healthier. The aim is to ensure that with all those technological gadgets that group of hyper-rich lives longer. And there it pinches. This ideal state resembles a utopia, a previously unsuccessful search for perfection. Now in itself it is not so bad that a group of rich in the desert strives for a utopian society, but there are a number of flaws in that race to perfection. The impoverished of this world are not welcome there. Here we come across an important feature of utopian societies: the control mechanism that is ultimately compulsive and no longer allows the "misfits".
Now it remains some hyper-rich who are plotting plans in the desert, which are not yet a reality, so why should we pay attention to this? We should now be able to make a full speech about all the developments that we see that also point to the same philosophy as that of the hyper-rich in the desert, but we prefer to speak of opportunities.
We now have the opportunity to thoroughly examine whether our society is heading for a place where it is a mecca for the rich and where the less wealthy are completely left to themselves. We now have the opportunity to determine whether our system is structured in such a way that wealth, regardless of who created it, is shared fairly among everyone who is part of our society. In that context, two facts:
Research by the American Equilar Institute shows that American top men and women are paid an average of 254 times as much as their average employee.
Thanks to the courteous attitude of the Dutch tax authorities, Uber and Starbucks are allowed to store their intellectual property here, which they have to pay tax on in every other western country, but not here, between the dikes.
The first fact, incidentally, is not a purely American phenomenon. For example, the CEO of Heineken earns 215 times as much as the average employee. So we can still learn something about distribution. The second fact shows that the Dutch government also misses some opportunities in terms of distribution. Uber and Starbucks are moving the core of their company to the Netherlands, but residents are not benefiting from this.
But we were talking about opportunities. Take the 500 billion that Bin Salman makes available for NEOM, the tax that large corporates could pay and the wages that everyone could have and we have a lot of investment space.
And there is work to be done, because we are in a time of new balances. Vulnerable balances between rich and poor, between inclusivity and exclusivity, between value and values. That balance is crucial for our global society. Hunger is indeed a problem for the rich. Global warming really needs to be pushed back by the perpetrators. The ability to share does not come from the impotent. Rutger Bregman's elephant in the Davose room is getting more topical by the minute. Perhaps we should now call "tax" "distribution".
NEOM is built in the desert. And is reserved for a small group of hyper-rich (who, incidentally, are getting richer). The polder is the foundation of our little country. Polder until we have come up with a solution that everyone can agree on: it is perhaps the most important value we have. It may cause more load, it certainly ensures a better distribution.
NEOM was conceived in a desert. It seems a bit like the desert climate is causing innovation to dry up. Are the investments made in Innovation only for a select group of 'accidental' hyper-rich people? In our view, that is not much of a challenge. The foundation of our little country is the polder. Innovation that everyone can relate to.
And that is innovation that we want to commit ourselves to, innovation that divides prosperity and well-being among everyone in a sustainable model: isn't that the essence of future-proof living together?
Herman Stil. (2019, August 8). Uber may create billions of benefits through the Netherlands. Het Parool. Consulted from Het Parool. Geraadpleegd van https://www.parool.nl/wereld/uber-creeert-mogelijk-miljardenvoordeel-via-nederland~bbf2bc24/
Equilar Institute. (2019, 10 april). Equilar 100: Highest-Paid CEOs at the Largest Companies by Revenue. Equilar Institute. Consulted fromhttps://www.equilar.com/reports/63-highest-paid-ceos-2019-equilar-100.html