Dutch news in brief, Friday 20 February 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.
Minister presents plans to fight crisis
Today's edition of Trouw has a report on a raft of measures proposed by Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner. The minister wants to convert the current practice of reducing working hours to part-time employment in combination with unemployment benefits. Donner also proposes giving pension funds five years instead of three to replenish their financial reserves to the legal minimum.
Trouw writes that the minister assumes the pension funds will freeze the indexation of pension benefits to meet this objective. It is expected the cabinet will need several weeks to decide on a full set of economic measures, but the government will have to decide on the above-mentioned issues sooner than that.
The current working hours reduction scheme ends on 1 March, and the pension funds must submit their proposals for restoring full solvency before 1 April. Minister Donner argues that an extension of the current scheme may keep workers employed in sectors where there will not be enough work even in the long term. His proposal includes labour pools which would allow workers to find jobs with other companies as much as possible.
Amsterdam's ultimate money pit
De Volkskrant has a report on the resignation of Amsterdam councillor Tjeerd Herrema, who was responsible for the North-South Line, a new subway line connecting the north of the city to the business district along the southern section of the ring road. The line was originally expected to cost 1.5 billion euros and would be completed by 2005. The most recent estimates show the North-South line will cost 2.5 billion euros and should be completed by 2017.
De Volkskrant describes the project as an "all-consuming bottomless excavation." The paper writes that, since 2002, Amsterdam has been stuck with an interminable chaos of sand hills, half-dug excavations, deafening noise, subsiding houses and, since this week, the prospect of all this misery continuing for another eight years.
After two historical houses subsided within a few months last year, all plans, cost projections and financial risk calculations were re-evaluated, leading to the conclusion that previous cost estimates would be exceeded by about 300 million euros. Or, in the words of Tjeerd Herrema, "The patient's condition was more serious than I thought."
Just to make sure, the former councillor also had a calculation made of what it would cost to scrap the project and fill in all excavations: one billion euros.
So the question is: Has Herrema resigned because he accepts responsibility for the financial mess he has made, or does he simply have no desire to preside over even worse disasters he knows are sure to come?
Generation Y not crisis-proof
Free newspaper De Pers has a front-page story on 'generation Y', which it says has cramped up, worries itself to death and no longer has the courage to be innovative at work. The paper defines generation Y as young professionals between the age of 20 and 35 who have never before experienced a recession.
Economic Psychology Professor Fred Raay says generation Y will have great difficulty adjusting to the new situation. "They grew up with the notion that everything would keep getting better. In a marked contrast with older generations, they do not adjust their spending patterns to match their incomes, but instead look at what others have."
Author Jeroen Boschma says: "I expect it will be a total disaster for them. They are used to having money in their pockets, they bought houses at premium prices, bought cars on credit, but have no reserves. They have been living on future interest, thinking: I will make that money somehow."
Professor Raay predicts that generation Y will only learn to handle money better if the crisis lasts longer than two or three years: "If it's all over by 2010, they will heave a sigh of relief and pick up were they left off.”
28-year-old Joep Wessing, just recently sacked, is frantically searching for a new job to be able to keep paying his mortgage when his unemployment benefits run out. He says: "I have booked a vacation with some friends, oh well, why not?”
Plea for compulsory drug tests in violent crimes
Trouw reports that Judicial Psychologist Harald Merckelbach and Forensic Psychologist Corine de Ruiter are arguing for compulsory blood tests in violent crimes. The two scientists argue that the authorities have little awareness of the effects of medication on extremely violent behaviour. They say there is substantial evidence that anti-depressants play a role in crimes where excessive violence was used without a clear motive.
De Ruiter says: “Breath tests and blood tests are standard procedure in traffic offences, but not in violent crimes, and I can't understand why."
The two psychologists argue that many behavioural experts who testify in court cases are too quick to attribute personality disorders to suspects, denying the role of psychopharmaca. De Ruiter asks: "Can a suspect be held responsible for a serious crime they committed under the influence of a prescription drug?"
On its front page, AD has a picture of a young woman about to stick a big hand-rolled cigarette in the mouth of huge purple papier-mâché dragon's head. The dragon's head is part of a float taking part in Monday's carnival parade in the southern city of Den Bosch, or Oeteldonk as the city is called during the carnival season.
The slogan of the smoking dragon float is ‘Als droake straks ok nie mer meuge roake’, which is southern dialect for: 'If even dragons will no longer be allowed to smoke’, a clear reference to the recently introduced smoking ban in cafés, bars, hotels and restaurants.
The Food and Consumer Products Safety Authority has announced its inspectors will dress up as merrymakers during carnival to check whether cafés and bars adhere to the ban. It is feared the inspectors would be too conspicuous in their ordinary clothes, which could lead to fights with drunken revellers.
In the Netherlands carnival is celebrated from Saturday until Tuesday.
Radio Netherlands/Georg Schreuder Hes/Expatica