Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 15 September 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.
Initial reactions to new budget mainly negative
De Volkskrant reports the initial reactions to details of the leaked new budget are primarily negative.
The cabinet is accused of delaying making decisions of main problems and are pushing the demand of some population groups to the sidelines.
The main trade union federation FNV said it’s strange that the cabinet has not made fighting unemployment its top priority.
“The social affairs ministry wants to economise on re-integration. You would expect an all-out effort on employment,” said FNV chairperson Agnes Jongerius.
The opposition parties are reluctant to give detailed criticisms in view of the embargo on the budget documents which expire on Tuesday afternoon.
Their first impressions are however negative. The Democratic party D66 called the new budget “a major disappointment” while party leader Alexander Pechtold said: I’ve read all kinds of analyses….but did not find any solutions”.
Green Left was surprised at the lack of ambition in the plans, while Socialist Party leader Agnes Kant accused the cabinet of letting ordinary people pay for the crisis: “The bankers go scot-free; it’s the elderly of today and the elderly of the future who will have to foot the bill”.
The conservative VVD said the cabinet’s measures are “too little and too late”.
Party leader Mark Rutte added he did not expect the cabinet would actually raise the retirement age, which he considers the only substantial austerity measure in a raft of crisis measures adopted in March.
He said the coalition was starting to resemble “A kind of think-tank”, which does not actually take any decisions.
European Commission rejects state support for ING Bank
De Volkskrant reports European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has rejected Dutch state support for ING Bank.
According to Kroes, Finance Minister Wouter Bos was way too generous when he paid EUR 22 billion for ING’s US junk loans in January 2009.
The European Commission has reportedly been annoyed with the finance ministry for a long time. It accuses the Netherlands of being pedantic, showing disdain for EU officials and refusing to provide information.
The EC announced an investigation into possible illegal state support for ING in March. The financial support was temporarily condoned to avoid causing financial problems for ING.
However, experts consulted by Commissioner Kroes have confirmed that Minister Bos has paid too high a price for the junk loans. The finance ministry has reportedly been too optimistic about the number of mortgages that would almost certainly be repaid.
Sources say that if Bos fails to change the European Commission’s mind, the additional costs for ING could be as high as several hundred million euros and could possibly be even higher than EUR 1 billion.
This would also be a personal setback for the finance minister, who had hoped Brussels would approve the “special and innovative way in which the state came to the rescue of a bank”.
V&D department store and Salvation Army join forces
The Salvation Army and the V&D department store chain have announced they will set up an outlet store chain run by former homeless people.
AD reports the stores will only sell new products. According to Salvation Army spokesperson Gitta de Zwart, the stores will sell all kinds of products: “From clothing to garden furniture to cook books”.
Any surplus products from the V&D, Bijenkorf, Praxis, Dixons and other Maxeda subsidiaries can be sold there. Former homeless people will staff the outlet stores.
“V&D will supply the expertise on how to set up a store. They know about purchasing, what a store should look like and they will supply furniture,” said De Zwart.
The parent company Maxeda will also provide a manager to assist us during the first few months. The first store will open its doors mid 2010, probably in Maastricht.
Setting up a store chain fits the Salvation Army’s plan to create 300 apprenticeships for former homeless people.
Earlier, Maxeda CEO Tony de Nunzio suggested hiring Salvation Army clients to work at the V&D in-store restaurants. He said the work was “simple and easy to learn” and served as a leg-up to other jobs for many high school dropouts.
Pension premiums will not increase
Trouw reports Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner will not adjust the rules for pension funds in 2010, which means that premiums will not increase.
The paper writes that employers and workers organisations “can breathe a little easier for the time being”.
Minister Donner will not initiate discussions on the issue until next year.
In 2007, new rules were agreed for pension funds, which calculate premiums on the basis of a certain percentage of returns on their portfolios of shares and bonds.
The percentage, which is set by the social affairs ministry, was fixed for three years, and a new percentage should be set before 2010. However, a commission appointed by the minister failed to reach agreement before the deadline of September.
According to Trouw, the representatives of workers and employers organisations on the commission are opposed to setting a lower percentage, as this would lead to higher premiums they themselves would have to pay.
Representatives of the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis and the De Nederlandsche Bank (Dutch central bank) would prefer to adjust the percentage downward.
Sources say the commission is expected to present separate recommendations, which is why the minister has already decided to postpone a decision on the issue until 2010.
Cavalry practice for Prince’s Day
AD publishes a photograph of a cavalryman charging through the smoke with his sword menacingly pointing forward. The soldier is one of a group of hussars practicing with blanks and smoke bombs to prepare their horses for possible disturbances on Prince’s Day.
Traditionally, the exercises take place on the Noorderstrand, a beach near The Hague. The cavalrymen will then form an honorary escort when Queen Beatrix travels from the Noordeinde Palace to the Ridderzaal (Knight’s Hall) in the parliament building, where she will give a speech, in which the cabinet presents its new policies for the coming year.
Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica