champagne anarchist | armchair activist

Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem takes up data visualisation challenge

Every year, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem sends a report to Parliament on state participations - companies that are (partially) owned by the state. Recently, the minister answered questions from the Finance Committee of the Lower House. One of them questioned the use of a stacked bar chart to show dividends, «since this isn’t very clear». The minister acknowledges the problem and takes up the challenge:

In creating this bar chart we aimed at comprehensiveness by including all dividends received from all state participations. Because of the large differences in dividend, this results in sub-optimal readability. For the 2015 annual report, it will be considered whether the readability can be improved without making concessions to comprehensiveness.

I’m sure he’ll be interested in good ideas, so if you have any suggestions for improving the chart, tweet them to @j_dijsselbloem. And if you want to give it a try yourself: here’s the data for 2010–2014.

Update April 2016 - Jean Adams shows how the chart can be improved.[1]

Update October 2016 - Alas. Last month, a new issue of the participations report was sent to Parliament. Apparently, the minister hasn’t succeeded in improving the dividend chart; the chart has now been omitted. Instead, the report now has a line chart showing just the total amount of dividend received (further, the simple bar chart showing dividend received per participation for the most recent year has been replaced with a pie chart).


  1. Adams correctly points to a discrepancy between the csv and the original chart: the csv contains data on total dividend paid, whereas the original chart shows the amount received by the state (the two are different for companies owned for less than 100% by the state).  ↩

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