Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 15 October 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.15 October 2008
US adopts European rescue plan
The lead story in today's Trouw and de Volkskrant is the US decision to adopt the European rescue plan for the financial sector.
According to de Volkskrant, US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson's step to invest in thousands of financial institutions and guarantee loans among banks is a clear breech of US economic policy.
Paulson said that taking equity stakes in banks "was objectionable to most Americans, including myself. We regret taking these actions, but we must do this to restore confidence in the financial system."
However the plan was less well received than its European counterpart with the Dow Jones index closing on a 0.8 percent loss.
In the Netherlands, Finance Minister Wouter Bos said: "It is now time for leadership from, and within the banking sector. It is time for bankers to stand up and say: confidence has been restored."
The Minister added threateningly: "If they fail to learn the lessons from this crisis, we will do it for them."
Nrc.next reports that Bos' emergency plans are being supported by a majority in parliament, even though some parties had some questions about the finance minister's rescue plans.
Bos rejected all criticisms regarding the underlying causes of the current crisis.
"Our priority lies with putting out the fire, afterwards we can start looking for the fatal match."
Taxpayers' money up in smoke
Meanwhile, some EUR 250 million euros of the taxpayers' money has “evaporated”, reports AD.
The paper writes that provinces, local councils and district water boards have lost the above-mentioned amount due to investments in Icelandic and US "problem banks".
The province of North Holland leads the pack with a loss of UER 100 million in public money.
On Tuesday night, Deputy Interior Minister Ank Bijleveld warned that the amount could still increase further.
The government has launched an investigation to determine whether stricter rules for municipal and provincial banking are called for.
The renowned Dutch economist Arnold Heertje says: "There is an information problem when councils take their money to exotic places like Seoul or Iceland. They don't know who they are dealing with. It is an outrageous scandal that this should have happened with public money".
It is not clear whether the councils and provinces in question will be able to recover any of their savings.
Tax on diesel-powered vehicle to be withdrawn
Trouw reports the appeal court in The Hague ruled an extra tax on the sale of new, heavily-polluting diesel-powered vehicles as breaking European rules and must be withdrawn.
The ruling is seen as a victory for the Dutch car sector.
The court said that the fine dust tax conflicted with EU regulations which include the EU-wide introduction of a compulsory soot filter on all new diesel cars.
The fine dust tax was really a rebate on a special purchase tax levied on all cars.
Diesels with low fine-dust emissions became cheaper by about EUR 900, while less clean diesels became more expensive.
A spokesperson for the finance ministry said the ruling represented a setback for motorists buying clean diesels as well as for the environment.
The ministry is still considering whether it will file an appeal.
Free schoolbooks may undermine education quality
AD reports that the quality of education is under pressure as a result of the government's introduction of free textbooks.
Many schools are forced to economise on textbooks because they receive inadequate funding from the government.
The EUR 316 per student that schools will receive from the government as of 2009 is far less than the amount spent on textbooks.
Teachers have expressed fears of a limited freedom of choice and a higher workload. Schools are collectively facing tens of millions of euros in fines from suppliers if they cancel current contracts.
Deputy Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt has said she will not reimburse schools for such fines.
The headmaster of a Rotterdam secondary school says: "These suppliers are entitled to those fines, but money intended for education is now going to book suppliers, and that's bad".
The main teachers' union says it is not sure whether the whole operation should go ahead.
"We have said before that schools would not be able to manage with this amount. Politicians forced this through in an unbelievable way".
Braille-way Leiden station
Today's De Telegraaf reports that the Dutch national railways have launched a pilot scheme at Leiden train station involving Braille on handrails to help blind people determine where they are or how they can reach their platform.
The pilot includes a series of measures which will be put to the test at Leiden station during Accessibility Week, which started on Monday.
Also being tested at Leiden is a navigation system using mobile phones as a platform, the deployment of so-called buddies to help guide blind people through the station and improved paths for the blind on the main transit corridors.
On Thursday, representatives of an interest group for the visually impaired will travel to Leiden to review the new facilities.
The Dutch national railway wants 90 percent of railway stations to be accessible to all sections of the population by 2020.
[Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica]