Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 21 October 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.21 October 2008
Government to help small business
The main stories in the Dutch papers are once again mostly about the effects of the global financial crisis.
De Telegraaf reports the government has come to the rescue of small and medium-sized businesses. Economic Affairs Minister Maria van der Hoeven has announced that the state will guarantee bigger loans than before, and make this form of support available to a greater number of businesses. The measure is intended to prevent a decrease in investments, which would slowly bring the economy to a halt.
This 'surety fund' for medium-sized and small businesses employing up to 100 workers will be extended to include those which have up to 250. The maximum loan the government will guarantee will be increased from EUR 1 million to EUR 1.5 million.
The government will also increase its support for first-time entrepreneurs. It will now stand surety for EUR 200,000 compared to EUR 100,000 before.
The minister said: "We want to be ready to limit the possible effects of the credit crisis on Dutch businesses."
Confidence in banking system restored
AD writes that confidence in the banking system is gradually being restored as shares in banking and insurance company ING rose 30 percent on Monday.
According to the paper, foreign banks and insurance companies were also "among the winners".
Investors reportedly breathed a sigh of relief after Finance Minister Wouter Bos stepped in to give ING a much-needed EUR 10-billion capital injection.
The intervention did not come at the expense of investors, as was the case earlier with Fortis Bank.
Insurance companies Aegon and SNS Reaal are expected to follow ING's example and request government support soon.
AD reports that inter-bank lending is slowly picking up again, and it is hoped that the banks will also resume their granting of loans to businesses and private individuals.
The government's support does come at a price for the senior managers. The CEO of ING, Michel Tilmant, will miss out on nearly EUR five million because he has been forced to forgo his bonuses as part of the deal with Bos.
Housing construction firms fear hit by crisis
AD reports on property developers and housing corporations which fear the financial crisis will lead to a serious reduction in the number of new homes built in the coming years.
Peter Noordanus, the chair of property developers' branch organisation Neprom, says: "The state has a duty to prevent housing construction from facing a total collapse in the coming two to three years."
He argues for an expansion of the Nationale Hypotheek Garantie (National Mortgage Guarantee Scheme), in which the government guarantees mortgages of up to EUR 265,000. Noordanus would also like to see the current government guarantees for housing corporations expanded, allowing them to get cheaper loans.
He also argues for support for environmentally friendly construction methods: "The insecurity in financial markets makes for increasingly expensive loans for building projects, which means many building projects are postponed or reduced in size. We are talking about 25 to 30 percent fewer homes, which boils down to a reduction of more than 20,000 homes."
The Neprom chairman fears difficult projects will be among the first to fall by the wayside:
"I wouldn't be surprised if Vogelaar's (Housing Minister Ella Vogelaar) 40 slum districts were among them."
According to AD, housing corporations currently spend an additional EUR 40 million a year on loans, which - calculated on the basis of an average loan term of 23 years - means a one-billion-euro setback as a result of the credit crisis.
The housing ministry is not considering taking measures yet. A spokesperson for Minister Vogelaar said: "The cabinet is currently studying the effects of the credit crisis. Only when that overview is ready will we know whether measures are required".
Book on Queen Juliana out in November
Trouw reports that Dutch Historian Cees Fasseur will publish his long-expected book in November on the marriage between the late Queen Juliana and her late husband Prince Bernhard, which also focuses at length on the Greet Hofmans affair.
In the 1950s, it was alleged in certain quarters that faith healer Greet Hofmans was acquiring a growing influence over Queen Juliana, and putting pacifist ideas into her head, thus bringing her into conflict with the cabinet and with her husband Prince Bernhard.
There were rumours about an impending divorce and a potential constitutional crisis. The story came to public attention in 1956, when the German magazine Der Spiegel published a story in which it called Greet Hofmans a Rasputin.
Then deputy prime minister Louis Beel settled the affair in that same year following an investigation into the affair, but his report was stored in the royal archives, which are inaccessible to journalists and historians.
In 2005, historian Cees Fasseur was the first to receive permission to use the royal archives for his book on the deceased royal couple, which will include the Beel report as an appendix.
However, Trouw wonders whether it will really shed new light on the affair. Most historians have since come to the conclusion that Greet Hofmans played only a minor role in the life of a headstrong queen whose marriage was already deteriorating.
Cooked tulips bulbs served at “crisis” tour
De Telegraaf has a photograph of two female investors who, judging by the expressions on their faces, don't appear to be enjoying their cooked tulip bulbs very much.
The unusual meal - tulip bulbs are no good as food, they were only ever eaten by desperately hungry people during the 'Hunger Winter' in the Netherlands in early 1945 - was served by a soup kitchen at the end of a guided tour which had the credit crisis as its theme.
The tour started off at the head of the Zeedijk in Amsterdam, where the world's first shares were issued in 1602. Next on the itinerary was the city loan office, which once had Rembrandt as a customer.
At the premises of the brokers' guild, the guide explained how 18th century house prices dropped substantially after the United Kingdom took control of world trade.
Around the corner, there used to be a special cemetery for people who had committed suicide. The tour ended at the above-mentioned soup kitchen.
Investors with savings in the failed Icesave internet bank received a free tulip bulb and did not have to pay for the tour or the meal.
[Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica]