Dutch news in brief, Friday 12 September 2008

12th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

12 September 2008

Cabinet passes on budget deficit to chronically ill
Today's de Volkskrant reports that "the cabinet has for the third time passed on a budget deficit to the chronically ill".

A EUR-200-million windfall, the result of restrictions on the fiscal deductibility of designer glasses and first aid kits, will not be used for the chronically ill but rather to plug other holes in the budget.

During coalition negotiations, the parties in the current cabinet agreed to a EUR-400-million cut to a tax rebate known as the 'contribution towards unusual expenditure,' which was intended to compensate the chronically ill for additional costs such as taxi transport or adjustments to their houses.

In practice the rebate was used by millions of people to deduct their health insurance premiums, Armani glasses and arch supports.

The cabinet decided to introduce a new arrangement which was to include an additional EUR 250 million - the cabinet needed the money to pay for free schoolbooks for everyone - but without reducing spending power of the chronically ill.

However, the proposal the cabinet submitted to parliament before summer led to a 9 percent reduction in the spending power of the chronically ill, so parliament ordered the cabinet to adjust its proposal.

It now turns out the cabinet has failed to do so.

Director Ad Poppelaars of the Council for the Chronically Ill and the Disabled says he is shocked.

"The sick and the disabled are to foot the bill for maintaining the spending power of the rest of the country"

He said he would ask the National Institute for Family Finance Information to calculate the consequences for the chronically ill of the intended budget cuts.

Money pit
Most of today's papers report on the last in a series of problems involving the construction of a new metro line through Amsterdam's historical centre.

Trouw writes that work on the 'North-South Line, intended to link the Central Station to the south of the city, was halted in June when several houses developed a serious list as a result of excavation work.

The sheet pile wall lining the excavation was not completely impermeable to ground water, which led to a change in the water table and caused the ground to subside by as much as 15 centimetres.

After three months of study, and the introduction of a number of technical measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident, the city decided to resume work on Tuesday.

However, on Wednesday night, the residents of six houses on the Vijzelgracht were evacuated after cracks suddenly appeared in the walls of their houses and chunks of ceiling came crashing down. Some of the cracks are as long as five metres and two inches wide.  

It is expected it will be several years before the inhabitants of the subsided houses are able to return home.

According to Trouw, this is only the latest in a sheer endless series of financial setbacks in the metro project.

In 2002, the government agreed to pay for the project – EUR 1.1 billion - if Amsterdam paid for all additional costs.

These costs, originally projected at EUR 319 million, have already risen to EUR 900 million and are expected to rise by an additional EUR 100 million a year.

Completion of the project is now scheduled for 2015.

Micro credits
De Volkskrant reports that Dutch banks and pension funds are massively investing in micro credits to developing countries.

Research by de Volkskrant shows that Dutch financial institutions have invested more than EUR 580 million in loans to poor entrepreneurs.

The banks and pension funds expect that this amount will at least have doubled in two years time.

The trend is the result of several factors, including the wish to invest in a socially responsible manner and the good returns on the micro credits which have proven immune to the global crisis in the credit markets.

Banks are also hoping to win new customers in rising economies such as India and Brazil.

However, Nobel peace prize winner Mohammed Yunus, the spiritual father of the micro credit, is fiercely opposed to what he calls the commercialisation of micro credits.

Other critics also fear that the fight against poverty will be made subservient to the pursuit of profit.

Black underclass
In today's Trouw, a report on racial discrimination in the labour market.

In a speech she gave on Tuesday, Chair Agnes Jongerius of the trade union federation FNV warned that discrimination in the labour market is creating a 'black underclass' in the major cities.

She said that immigrant youths were seriously hampered by their ethnicity when looking for jobs.

Jongerius argued that youth unemployment in the Netherlands "has developed a colour".

Youth unemployment among native Dutch between the age of 15 and 25 stands at 8 percent, unemployment among their immigrant counterparts is nearly double that figure: 15 percent.

Unemployment among the immigrant population in general is even three times as high compared to native Dutch people.

Jongerius called the situation "morally reprehensible".

The FNV chair pointed to the increasing demand for highly educated workers as one of the causes of the present situation.

Many of the immigrant youths have little education and are looking for unskilled work.

Jongerius argued for positive discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups in situations where two candidates are equally suited for a job.

She accused employers of trying to 'clone' their workers.

"It is striking how often you see the same kind of people in company departments. The same background, the same sense of humour, the same appearance. Real cosy. Sometimes you need to break that pattern".

[Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica]

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