Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 24 November 2009

24th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

Pay-as-you-drive scheme will not change travelling habits
De Telegraaf wrote the introduction of a pay-as-you-drive scheme – scheduled for 2012 – will do little to reduce road traffic as “Cars will still be cheaper than public transport”.

According to Traffic Minister Camiel Eurlings, road traffic will decrease by 15 percent as the number of car-poolers increases, more motorists switch over to bicycles and, in the long term, see more people moving house to live closer to their jobs.

However, the paper reported driving your own car will in most cases still be substantially cheaper than buying a train or bus ticket.

Even though motorists have to pay for maintenance and insurance, many will only consider fuel costs and the pay-as-you-drive charges in weighing their options as they would have to pay for the other costs anyway.

Only driving a luxury sedan would be more expensive than public transport.

Under the proposed pay-as-you-drive system, motorists would no longer pay road tax or car purchase tax. Instead they would just pay for the distance they have driven.

The paper’s report is confirmed by traffic economist Erik Verhoef of the Free University in Amsterdam: “People will also take travelling time, reliability and comfort into consideration. Also, the positive effects are always less strong than some policy makers expect when they are sitting at their drawing boards”.

The Rural Association of Small Residential Areas argued for a reduction of pay-as-you-drive charges for residents of rural areas where people have no choice because of limited public transport.

“It would only be fair if residents of rural areas paid less than motorists elsewhere. They benefit the least from measures to reduce traffic jams and are highly dependent on their cars,” said spokesperson Koos Mirck.

Young workers to continue to face difficult labour market
de Volkskrant reports on the difficult labour market for young people that will prevail until 2014.

In its bi-annual labour market prognosis, ROA, a research institute of the University of Maastricht, predicted unskilled workers and students who graduate in a technical study, economics or law will have more difficulty finding employment.

ROA researcher Frank Corvers believed even though the recession itself has ended, the slump in the labour market will last for quite some time. “We expect the labour market will recover very slowly”.

According to the ROA prognosis, there will be 220,000 jobs less than in 2008 by 2013, a three-percent reduction of the labour force.

According to Corvers: “to young workers, the ageing population is a blessing in disguise”.

Notable are the unfavourable conditions for students in technical studies. For years, there were serious shortages of all kinds of technical personnel, and government-sponsored campaigns were launched to encourage young people to choose technical studies.

However, employment in the technical sector has shrunk and replacement demand is small.

In general, students graduating from schools of higher vocational education have the most chance of landing a job, primarily because of the large number of workers in these jobs going into retirement. In particular young people who choose a career in healthcare have very little to worry about.

How 'Kaas' became a hero in Uruzgan
de Volkskrant published a report on the publication of Taskforce Uruzgan – a book including 29 stories by Dutch soldiers on their experiences in southern Afghanistan.

The initiative for the book was taken by Volkskrant editor Noël van Bemmel.

The defence ministry lent its assistance but did not interfere with the contents of the book.

de Volkskrant published the story of Captain Jasper Gorissen, a defence ministry social worker who talks about feelings of impotence after an attack.

"Death reeks. It’s a nauseating smell, death. It finds its way to your brain via the nose and the airways, and settles deep in your memory, never to go away again. And so it was for the soldier who everybody called ‘Kaas’ (Cheese).

Before I met him, his convoy had passed an Afghan. Neatly groomed and shaved he was, the Afghan. After all, it was going to be a special day for him. It was also going to be a special day for Kaas. His tour of duty was coming to an end and this was to be the last trip he would have to make. Kaas was ready to go home.

The Afghan smiled broadly at the convoy as it drove by. In a split second, because of ‘something’ Kaas decided to go ‘under armour’ just before passing the Afghan. What followed was a huge explosion, a plume of smoke and flying debris. The Afghan had selected Kaas’ armoured vehicle as a stepping-stone to eternal life. For a long time, Kaas would wonder what made him decide to go ‘under armour’. What if ’something had been ‘nothing’?

Whatever the case may be, his reaction to ‘something’ saved not just his own life, but also the lives of three of his comrades. Kaas became an instant hero. After the blast, Kaas stuck his head out of the hatch to see what had happened. The first thing he saw was a leg. A severed leg. A quick inspection of his own body showed he still had an ample supply of limbs. The leg belonged to the Afghan he had just passed by.

A day later, I ran into Kaas near his damaged armoured vehicle. A small crowd of disaster tourists was watching from a distance how the new local hero was cleaning out the vehicle which had taken the brunt of the blast and thus sealed its own fate. I was curious how Kaas was doing after a night’s sleep.

As I approached the vehicle, I was assaulted by a pungent odour. I could tell from the expression on Kaas’ face that he also unsuccessfully tried to rid himself from the odour that was so blatantly forcing itself on us. While approaching Kaas, I was trying to find the right words for striking up a conversation, but failed miserably. What do you say to someone who has had a narrow escape? What comforting words can be found for a person who has held a severed limb in his hands?

Kaas greeted me with a cynical smile: This is f****d up, hey Cap! Not exactly the most poetic description of the situation, but certainly the only accurate one. I nodded in consent. “What’s that smell Kaas? “It’s the explosion, something like fuel mixed with burned flesh. It sticks in your nose and won’t go away again.” From up close the tracked vehicle resembled a caked frying pan.

The pungent odour kept the disaster tourists at bay. While Kaas stubbornly continued working, I desperately tried a find a way to keep up the conversation. “I don’t want the rest of the group to see this vehicle, I want to spare them that”, Kaas said, while sticking his head through the hatch to enter the vehicle again.

I don’t know whether it was the stench that took my breath away or the fact that I could not think of an appropriate sentence in reply. Nothing I could say would ever be proper. I had been living within the safe perimeter of the camp for the past four months. What right did I have to speak? Anything I would say would be bullshit philosophy.

“Would you like me to help you clear the vehicle? was all I could come up with. “If you don’t mind Cap, that would be great. You have to be really weird to blow yourself up, right? This is simply f****d up, hey, Cap?” “It sure is Kaas, it sure is."

Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica

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