Dr. Jelle Zijlstra Award

SCCN Event, Amsterdam, 4 December 1958, Speech by Dr. Zijlstra at the 25th Anniversary of the SCCN (photo: Nationaal Archief).

Since its inception in 1933, the Swiss Chamber of Commerce in The Netherlands (SCCN) has brought together the most extraordinary visionaries, heads of state, corporate leaders, and global experts towards the goal of increased cooperation and prosperity among nations. From this vantage point, the SCCN has instituted the Dr. Jelle Zijlstra Award in honour of this former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, President of De Nederlandsche Bank (the central bank of The Netherlands) and President of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland.

Dr. Jelle Zijlstra

Jelle Zijlstra (27 August 1918 – 23 December 2001) was a Dutch politician and economist. After his premiership, Zijlstra retired from active politics at the age of forty-eight and became the President of De Nederlandsche Bank, the central bank of the Netherlands, serving from 1 May 1967 until 1 January 1982. He had already been appointed as President of the bank on 16 September 1966, but his unexpected premiership delayed this. Zijlstra also occupied numerous seats on supervisory boards in the business and industry world. Zijlstra was widely respected for his expertise and integrity and was a godparent of King Willem-Alexander. On 30 April 1983, he was granted the honorary title of Minister of State, which he held until his death.

SCCN Event Amsterdam, 12 December 1961. F.l.t.r: Ir. P.R. Bentz van den Berg, President SCCN and Director of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Hoogovens en Staalfabrieken N.V; E. de Haller, Swiss Ambassador to The Netherlands; Dr. J. Zijlstra, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, President of De Nederlandsche Bank, President of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel; Secretary-General Dr. M.J. Prinsen (photo: collection Anefo).

During these activities, Zijlstra made important contributions to economic theory and economic policy, both in legislative work and in various publications. His valuable contributions in such different fields as economic competition, economic order, public finance, monetary theory and central banking policy cannot be overestimated. Zijlstra is generally recognized as an original thinker who has been a stimulating and inspiring contributor to critical knowledge in the fields of economic theory and economic policy.

In Zijlstra’s first book, “Dr. Zijlstra,” he documented his career and his time as president of De Nederlandsche Bank and the BIS. During his ten years as DNB president, the international Bretton Woods agreement collapsed. In his book, Zijlstra shared great detail concerning these events. He wrote about the “European” group’s interests, the cultural and financial ties between Germany and The Netherlands, the relationships with France and Great Britain, and, of course, the position of the United States.

In Zijlstra’s second book, “Per Slot Van Rekening”, he explained his understanding of the role of gold in what he eloquently called the international “monetary cosmos”: Gold functions like the sun, with all currencies as planets orbiting around it, with only the sun in fixed position.

Dr Karl Fritschi, Swiss Ambassador to The Netherlands, 1991 SCCN Event in The Hague (photo: collection SCCN).

“… It is perhaps nice to get into the role of gold and its meaning in the time before the monetary cosmos collapsed into more chaotic conditions. (…) Throughout centuries gold was a protection against [natural] disasters, arbitrariness, and persecution. (…) That’s why gold developed its image of solidity, stability, and reliability. (…) In the heydey of the gold standard one could take a banknote to the central bank and — if you would like that — get gold in return.”

Zijlstra is also notable for his candid wish that central bankers should be allowed to implement monetary policy. His speech to the International Monetary Fund can be found here.

As an economist, Zijlstra distanced himself from the politics of The Hague and, with a business style, preferred consensus and the long term over ‘pious tunes’ and idealism. Both nationally and within party politics, Zijlstra stood for a pragmatic course, which earned him popularity but also resistance. Zijlstra occupied a prominent place in his modernizing political party and in a changing political landscape.

Vice Prime Minister of The Netherlands, Hans Dijkstal, at the 1997 SCCN Event in Amsterdam (photo: collection SCCN).

The Award

In this spirit, recipients of the prestigious Dr. Jelle Zijlstra Award are international leaders in their fields whose work champions economic national growth, innovation in solutions which present generational-shifting paradigms, statesmanship towards global collaboration, or charitable commitments which dramatically improve the quality of life for society.

These distinctions are given to individuals and organizations in celebration of their accomplishments, highlighting the invaluable worth of their contributions to humanity. Laureates join an elite cadre reflecting the gravitas of the SCCN’s history of recognition of internationally acclaimed leaders.

The SCCN Honorary Awards reflect the dynamism and spirit of collaboration between The Netherlands and Switzerland as a model for strong economic and diplomatic relations throughout the world.

Dr. Jelle Zijlstra fellowship

The Swiss Chamber of Commerce Fellows community assembles creative entrepreneurs and business professionals to help solve emerging issues that impact society on an international scale. The Fellowship is by invitation only.

Please contact us for more information.


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