Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 3 March 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.
Savers auctioning their piggy banks on-line
Today's edition of free newspaper De Pers has the latest on how savers are trying to beat the economic crisis.' The paper writes that savers who survived the Icesave-disaster and are looking for the bank offering the highest interest rates can now play various banks off against each other in on-line auctions.
In the US and the UK, companies like MoneyAisle and MaxBips have for some time been offering savers the option of auctioning their savings to the highest bidding bank. And now savers in the Netherlands can do the same at the recently launched website Spaarbod.nl (Savingsbid, ed.).
Arjo van Vueren, one of the founders of Spaarbod.nl, says: We are to become a marketplace where banks join battle over the savings of private customers.
The procedure is quite simple: savers log in, fill in the amount of their savings and how long they want it tied up. One more mouse click puts the auction in motion, and the saver can sit back and wait to see how keen the associated banks are to get their hands on the amount in question.
Van Vueren says it's too early to say whether the website will become a huge success, but "As of today, Delta Lloyd has joined us, the sixth party to do so, and they have promised they will play an active role."
De Telegraaf one step closer to own TV channel
Half of the front page of today's De Telegraaf is taken up by a photograph of a big flat screen television covered in the mug shots of dozens of people who signed up as members of the populist paper's new television channel. Under Dutch media laws, registering at least 50,000 members is one of the main requirements for potential new television and radio channels.
The new De Telegraaf television channel, named Wakker Nederland (Alert Netherlands, ed.) has been able to meet the requirement within two weeks, which is not really surprising in view of the popularity of the populist newspaper.
De Telegraaf writes: "The support of the De Telegraaf readership means the first step has been taken to storm Hilversum (where most broadcasting companies have taken up residence, ed.) with programmes that will touch the hearts of many."
The next step is for Wakker Nederland to become fully independent from De Telegraaf, another important legal requirement. Potential new television and radio channels have until 1 April to register at least 50,000 members. In addition newcomers must add something to the current line-up of broadcasters.
Frank Volmer, chairman ad-interim of Wakker Nederland claims that the "characteristic voice of De Telegraaf is insufficiently heard in Hilversum." The Dutch Media Authority will decide whether there is any truth to that claim. Based on the advice of the Media Authority, Media Minister Ronald Plasterk will decide which broadcasters will be allowed to begin broadcasting in September 2010.
Plea to double excise on alcohol
In AD, a foundation for the prevention of alcohol abuse, a criminologist and a paediatrician argue for substantially increasing duties on alcohol to crack down on alcohol abuse among minors. According to the Stap foundation and the two academics, the time has come to take drastic steps.
Criminologist Jan van Dijk says: We have been too soft on the issue for twenty years; limitations on advertising, educational campaigns, compulsory identification, none of it has made any difference. This is why duties on alcohol should at the very least be doubled."
Stap argues that the price of alcohol is "the most important weapon." Director Wim van Dalen says: As long as you don't take action against the very low price of beer, you will not succeed in tackling excessive drinking among minors."
AD writes that the three champions of higher alcohol duties say public health care and the judicial authorities can save billions if alcohol abuse among minors were to go down.
Van Dijk argues that recently introduced increases in tobacco duties have led to a marked drop in the number of smokers, but the Dutch breweries say current measures are effective and recent figures from Statistics Netherlands shows alcohol use among young Dutch people under 16 has decreased.
However, paediatrician Nico van der Lely says: "the number of young people admitted to hospital for alcohol poisoning keeps rising." The Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority reported on Monday that its inspectors spotted many young teenagers drinking alcohol during the recent carnival.
Development aid under threat
It seems increasingly likely that development aid will become the latest casualty of the economic crisis gripping the country. De Telegraaf has a report under the heading: crisis cuts to development aid." The paper writes that a 630-million-euro cut to the development budget is one of a raft of proposals submitted to the cabinet for deliberation.
The proposals were drawn up by a group of senior finance ministry officials charged with drawing up an inventory of measures to restore order to the government's finances. The Netherlands currently spends 4.7 billion euros a year on development, 630 million euros more than the UN norm of 0.7 percent of GDP.
De Volkskrant writes that Development Minister Bert Koenders fears the Netherlands in the coming years may have to cut as much as one billion euros from its aid to the poorest countries. His budget is linked to the national income, which is dropping rapidly. Koenders said the cuts would amount to 350 million for this year, increasing to one billion in 2013.
The minister made his comments in Mali, one of the Dutch partner countries suffering from the global economic crisis. He said it was bitter to see that the crisis which originated in the West most strongly affects countries like Mali, which were slowly climbing out of dire poverty.
Free newspaper Sp!ts reports that the BVVU (an interest group for the unemployed) wants to force the government to introduce a one-off 418-million-euro budget cut to the development aid budget to support the country's 2.2 million families supported by minimum wage earners. The group intends to collect the 40,000 signatures necessary to force parliament to put the issue on its agenda.
BVVU argues that "In these times of crisis and budget cuts, a small part of the five billion euros in development aid would be better spent on low-income families." The group wants to use the money to buy so-called Kyoto energy boxes, which contain products that help families save between 500 and 700 euros on their gas, power and water bills.
According to BVVU, its proposal would lead to a two megaton a year reduction in CO2 emissions as well as create 22,000 jobs. The group says it hopes to become a non-political platform which "checks whether politicians actually do what they were elected for."
Shots of painful jabs
Quite a few of today's papers feature photographs of young teenage girls making painful faces as they receive their inoculation against cervical cancer. Thousands of young girls between the age of 13 and 16 in 18 different towns across the nation received their first jabs in a series of three inoculations as part of a national campaign to prevent cervical cancer caused by a virus which can be transmitted sexually.
All 380,000 girls in this age bracket will be invited to get inoculated. Next year, all girls who turn 13 that year will receive a similar invitation.
The inoculations are somewhat controversial because the vaccine does not afford protection against all viruses that can cause the disease, so cervical smear tests will remain necessary. However, the government expects the vaccination campaign will halve the number of women who die from cervical cancer, which currently stands at between 200 and 250 a year.
Radio Netherlands/Georg Schreuder Hes/Expatica