To honour the Centennial of Erasmus University Rotterdam, a bronze statue of Professor H. J. (Johan) Witteveen was unveiled on Thursday 6 March. The statue, a gift from his son Raoul, was produced by famous sculptor and fashion illustrator Constance Wibaut. Wibaut passed away in late January after a brief illness at age 93. She was however still able to select the statue’s current location.
The statue was given a befitting spot beside the wall with portraits of professors at the Senaatszaal of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Professor Huibert Pols accepted the gift as Chairman of the SUHK (Stichting Universitair Historisch Kabinet, University History Cabinet Foundation). The bronze Witteveen statue is now part of the collection of Academic Cultural Property, managed by the SUHK.
About Johan Witteveen
Johan Witteveen (1921) started in 1939 as a student at NEH (Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool, Netherlands School of Economics), one of the legal predecessors of Erasmus University Rotterdam. He obtained his doctorate cum laude in 1947, under his supervisor Professor Jan Tinbergen. After the Dutch liberation following World War II, Witteveen’s interest in econometrics and economic politics led Tinbergen to invite him to work on the establishment of the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. In 1947, Witteveen obtained his doctorate under Tinbergen’s supervision with a dissertation on wage amounts and employment. He was appointed Professor the following year; Witteveen was 27 at the time. From 1958 to 1963, he was a member of the Dutch Senate for the VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy). The 1963 elections brought him to the Dutch House of Representatives for one month. In the same year, Witteveen ended his career at NEH to become Minister of Finance in the Marijnen administration. After this administration collapsed, he returned to the House of Representatives in 1967. From 1967 to 1971, he was reappointed Minister of Finance, this time in the De Jong administration. Witteveen had an important international position from 1973-1978 as Chairman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington.
In 2011, at age 90, Witteveen even wrote a proposal which was published in the Financial Times, in which he advocated a larger role of the IMF in battling the economic crisis. Countries with a budget surplus – and the rising economies in particular – were to lend a part of their surpluses to the fund, which could then use it to help out countries in need, the exact purpose for which the IMF was founded in 1944. According to many, Witteveen’s proposal was simple and feasible. In the same year, Witteveen was invited for a visit by the current head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde. Witteveen has fond memories of that visit, despite his proposal not being executed. In an interview with Elsevier (28 July 2012, no. 30) he said: ‘Those upcoming countries were perfectly equipped to provide the funds. But the Americans know that to do so, quotas would have to be adjusted, and if some countries were to receive more than others, other quotas would have to drop. Adjusting the quotas was the crucial point politically. Everyone can see that this is what we need to do. It is of crucial importance for the global monetary system to have those rapidly growing countries have a solid position within the IMF. America is afraid of losing its power.’