Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 17 June 2009

17th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

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

Government to give boost to housing market
Today's edition of De Telegraaf reports that the government wants to support the housing market by increasing the maximum amount covered by the National Mortgage Guarantee (NHG). The NHG, currently limited to a maximum of EUR 265,000, guarantees the mortgage provider that they will be paid the remainder of the debt if things go wrong due to unemployment, divorce or illness. The holders of NHG-covered mortgages pay up to 0.6 percent less interest.

Housing Minister Eberhard van der Laan wants to temporarily increase the maximum NHG amount to EUR 312,500. The increase, which is to take effect on 1 July 2009 and end on 1 January 2011, is intended to make it more attractive to buy a house in the current economic crisis. The number of transactions in the housing market has decreased by 40 percent since September.

Huge losses for investors in shipping

De Volkskrant writes that private investors in shipping are facing huge losses as a result of rapidly dropping freight transport rates. Tens of thousands of sleeping partners in shipping companies are facing a financial catastrophe.

About 40 of the 130 maritime limited partnerships have asked their sleeping partners to make additional payments of tens of millions of euros. If these maritime limited partnerships fail to raise additional funds, they will no longer be able to repay their bank loans and may go bankrupt. An estimated 40,000 private investors have more than EUR one billion invested in 130 maritime limited partnerships.

Director Sander Schakelaar of JR Shipping said "We need EUR 8.2 million to keep the banks—which have financed most of our ships—at bay for the time being". In the mid-1990s, investors were attracted by favourable tax breaks but, in the past year, shipping rates have dropped by as much as 90 percent.

Investment lawyer Dion Bartels warns his clients to be "extremely cautious" when asked to make additional investments. "It remains to be seen whether this will do any good. Investors may end up losing their initial investment as well as the additional payment. Our firm is getting ready for a massacre among maritime limited partnerships. There is a big risk that investors will lose all their money."

Rapid increase in unemployment predicted

The latest unemployment predictions feature prominently on the front pages of both Trouw and AD. Trouw reports a "super-fast increase in unemployment", with as many as 900,000 workers out of a job by the end of 2010. UWV, the government body responsible for the implementation of employee insurance schemes, has calculated that at least 320,000 jobs will be lost this year and in 2010.

Such a dramatic loss of employment has not occurred since the 1980s. And the UWV prediction is based on an economic shrinkage of 3.5 percent, while the latest figures published by the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis predict 4.75 percent shrinkage.

AD writes that one in ten Dutch citizens will be out of a job by 2010 and unemployment is expected to stay high in the following years.  However, the government sees no need for additional measures. In a reaction to the latest figures, Finance Minister Wouter Bos said "We must not lose our heads, there is no need for additional efforts. We are on the right path."

In parliament, the coalition parties want the cabinet to make haste in implementing the current plans to fight the economic crisis, whereas the opposition is demanding additional measures.

The main cause of the additional economic shrinkage is the collapse of global trade, which has hit Dutch exports hard. Consumption has also dropped. The income of most people has gone up but they are saving their money instead of spending it.

Government should get tough on illegal downloading

De Telegraaf writes that a parliamentary commission will today present a white paper on copyright, in which it calls on Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Economic Affairs Minister Maria van der Hoeven to crack down on illegal downloading of films and music.

The commission, comprised of MPs of the Christian Democratic CDA, the Labour Party, the Socialist Party and the conservative VVD, finds that in particular among young people it has become a sport to download films from the Internet even before they have been released in cinemas. At present, only uploading films on the Internet is punishable by law but the commission wants the government to make downloading a criminal offence as soon as a legal alternative becomes available.

The MPs argue for the introduction of a royalties system under which CDs, DVDs and computer games could be downloaded from the Internet for a fee. The commission also wants to scrap the ‘home-copying charge’ consumers pay when they buy blank CDs and DVDs. The combination of the above measures would reduce consumer prices and at the same time tackle illegal downloads.

Evacuation after train accident

Also on the front page of De Telegraaf is a photograph of aid workers helping passengers get off a train which was stranded near the town of Sassenheim after an overhead wire broke and smashed several windows of a passing train.

Seven passengers were injured by flying glass, while another passenger fell when he tried to pull the emergency brake and was admitted to hospital with bruised ribs. The stranded train was carrying 400 passengers; the train immediately behind it, which was also stranded, was carrying 200.

Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica

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