Opinion | Copenhagen is an economic disaster

City councillor warns that we will soon become the Nordic poorhouse unless we take as much of an interest in businesses as in legalising cannabis and emergency jobs for the unemployed

While the media has been busy reporting unsensational news stories, for example that Denmark is experiencing its worst drought in four years and that a Radikale politician is anti-war, it failed to notice that Copenhagen is ranked 280th out of 300 cities in a study measuring initiatives to encourage growth and jobs.

This is close to the bottom of the list, and even though Copenhagen is a region of low economic growth this is much worse than expected.  

Cities close to Copenhagen were all further up the list. Oslo took 65th place, Stockholm 127th and Berlin 130th.

Copenhagen is very close to becoming the Nordic poorhouse.

It should be characterised as nothing less than an economic disaster and a problem that does not only affect Copenhagen. Denmark’s capital is its centre for growth and stifling it has considerable consequences for the country as a whole.

Unfortunately, the situation is entirely of our own making and the reasons are easy to spot.

Tourists are staying away because of high taxes and prices and because excessive amounts of roadwork are rendering the city unattractive and difficult to navigate through.   

The remaining businesses are driven away and hampered by similar reasons. No other large global city can match Copenhagen’s high tax rates. There is a hefty level of bureaucracy and the smear campaign against private transportation makes it difficult to run a company other than a bicycle shop.

Rasmus Jarlov (K)

As a right-wing local politician, it is disappointing to see these problems go unaddressed by the City Council.

Dansk Industri, a Danish trade and employers’ association, ranked Copenhagen 70th out of 98 Danish councils in a business climate study, and little has been done to improve the city’s position.

Copenhagen’s left wing flatly refuses to lower taxes. Instead they continue to remove parking spaces and create bottlenecks on vital traffic arteries such as Amagerbrogade and Istedgade which will get the traffic to slow down even further.

The City Council is failing to make the city’s squares look decent for tourists by not providing adequate levels of cleaning. Even something as simple as putting up signs so visitors can find Amalienborg Castle, Tivoli and The Little Mermaid has remained unaddressed, despite being called to attention.  

Instead, the council spends its meeting time discussing whether parliament should legalise cannabis and how to provide emergency jobs for the unemployed.

When commerce finally appears on the council’s agenda, the discussion normally focuses on introducing more red tape and implementing more control of businesses.

As recently as a month ago, local authorities decided that all employees at construction sites have to carry picture identification, and that all construction sites must file reports on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and which suppliers they use.

It is very rarely the case that bureaucracy is reduced, which would make it easier to run a business.

If Copenhagen wants to create growth, local authorities should immediately carry out the following:

·         Reduce both council and business taxes.

·         Provide better signage, create a tourist information office and administer more and better cleaning services to make the city more attractive for tourists.

·         Stop harassing car owners, provide more and cheaper parking spaces, avoid closing roads, reduce bottlenecks and maintain speed limits.

·         Privatise more services such as job centres.

·         Pick up the Øresund collaboration again. We have not made any progress over the past ten years.

Parliament should also promptly remove VAT for hotels and also invest in a harbour tunnel to help keep the city’s traffic flowing.

It is appalling that Denmark’s capital is doing so poorly and that no action is being taken.

The author is the head of the Copenhagen branch of the Konservative and a member of Copenhagen City Council. This op-ed originally appeared in Politken.