Dutch news in brief, Thursday 17 September 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.Annual budget to be cut by EUR 35 billion
All the newspapers report on the 2010 budget which emphasises on the budget for the coming years.
The cabinet said budget cuts of at least EUR 35 billion a year starting from 2011 will be necessary to deal with the global financial crisis.
The cabinet’s most important proposal is to set up 20 work groups which will study ways of making cutbacks of 20 percent in 20 sectors of the economy over the next six months.
Budget overshadowed by Wilders’ headscarf tax and criticism
The parliamentary debate over the budget was overshadowed by Wilders’ headscarf tax combined with complaints that the cabinet’s plans and actions were indecisive, vague and showed a lack of leadership.
De Pers reports Peter Middendorp described the parliamentary debate as below:
“We listened to Pieter van Geel (leader of the Christian Democrats) the man who attempts to sell doing nothing by steadily repeating that ‘doing nothing is not an option’ and called this: Operation Sophie.
Sophie was the most popular name for (female) babies last year and symbolised all the children of the Netherlands whom we should not burden with today’s debts… We listened to Mariette Hamer (chair of the Labour faction), also for an hour and a half… who conjured up her own Joe the Plumber, (George W Bush’s everyman figure from the 2008 presidential campaign)
Then came Wilders. You know that Wilders will always propose something unexpected - a tax on Muslim headscarves. From now on women who want to wear a scarf must go to a municipal counter to fill out a form and pay EUR 1,000; otherwise they will not be allowed to wear a scarf in public…
I would like to hear something interesting for a change, something reasonable if need be, but we are beginning to understand more clearly how parliamentary reporting could become extinct.
Which is why journalists would rather write about debates before they happen than after.”
Meanwhile, de Telegraaf writes proposal by Labour leader Hamer to hit people earning more than the prime minister or EUR 181,000 with a 60 percent ‘solidarity’ tax was opposed by a parliamentary majority of Christian Democrats, Christian Union, conservative VVD, Wilders’ Freedom Party and the Democrats.
Christian Democrat leader Van Geel described it as “a classic Socialist intervention harmful to the economy and employment”.
Budget slammed by the media
De Telegraaf's editorial reads “Catastrophe”. and suggests the cabinet should call elections as soon as possible.
“From the cancellation of the child allowance for everyone (including the wealthy) to the vulgar raising of taxes, a Nirvana of everything which is left-wing is on the horizon as never before.”
The newspaper also points to Finance Minister Wouter Bos’s statement that the cabinet may reconsider its promise not to touch the mortgage rebate (everyone with a mortgage receives a 40 percent monthly rebate in the Netherlands). This rebate is of great importance for millions of people.”
De Telegraaf proposes cutting the number of public employees, getting rid of the public media and large cuts in development assistance to poor countries.”
Another proposal by Wilders, to cut the income of the Royal Family, also gets prominent coverage in the paper.
The Freedom Party leader’s proposal to cut the royal salaries by 20 percent received the support of the Socialist Party, GreenLeft, the Party for the Animals and Proud of the Netherlands. The Labour Party said it would also consider the proposal.
“Look happy for a change”
An opinion piece in de Volkskrant, “Look happy for a change”, gives a totally different picture to the debate.
Columnist Max Pam wrote: “The recession is over, the United States is glowing with hope. But silent lamentations hover over this Free University (a Calvinist university in Amsterdam) cabinet.
Pam described the MPs listening to the Queen’s speech with sombre faces.
“Nowhere was a smile to be seen. Nearly everyone was dressed in black, as if they were attending a funeral.”
He pointed out that the leaders of the three governing parties attended the Free University and had the same theological view “and you only have to look at the despondent physiognomy of Minister Piet Hein Donner to know that life is a vale of tears”.
He wrote that while there is a wave of optimism in the US, the current recession fits into the Calvinist “outlook of cutbacks and moderation, getting rid of things and tightening one’s belt… The members of the cabinet may have doleful faces, but actually it is in their favour. Which is why we must pay for one year of recession over the coming ten years… You need a sadistic vision to want to enforce these kinds of cutbacks for so long.”
He said the cabinet would be better off taking the view of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and be an optimist.
Dismantle the other half?
De Volkskrant columnist Marcel van Dam wrote that it is bollocks to say the government will go bankrupt because the rising number of people with pensions is unaffordable.
The columnist based his facts on the analysis provided by the Economic Affairs Ministry and Statistics Netherlands on what the pension system will cost in 2040 which state there is no basis for doomsday scenarios.
He writes that the problems are greatly exaggerated and the increase in productivity will pay for the pension system. “I’ve discussed this quite often with politicians and not once have they presented facts to contradict me.”
According to Van Dam, politicians don’t want to present these figures because reassuring people is the last thing they want to do. After the crisis of the 1980s the parties which ruled the country in turn dismantled half of the welfare system. After this crisis these parties are using more energy than ever before to dismantle the other half.
Why would you want to declare yourself old?
NRC-next columnist Aaf Brandt Corstius writes about her trip to the Fifty Plus Fair in Utrecht where she ends up escaping to the toilet.
The columnist, who has 17 years to go before turning 50, wonders why people are so obsessed with their age.
At the fair, she found cheerful exhibits as “Take the diabetes risk test” and the counter “Burial or Cremation?”
She also saw a sign displaying a big basket of Tena Lady incontinence that said: If breaking out laughing with friends or running after the kids gives you an unpleasant feeling
The columnist wrote that it was the text that left her with an unpleasant feeling. ”I look forward to bursting out with laughter or running after kids. And not in the company of people who voluntarily let themselves be treated like old fools.”
Radio Netherlands / Frank Scimone / Expatica