Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 22 October 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.22 October 2008
Fortis hands out bonuses
De Volkskrant breaks the news that the recently nationalised Dutch branch of Fortis bank is giving dozens of senior management bonuses without government permission.
The company at first kept the payments secret, but has now come clean to ministers. The bonuses were apparently paid out in order to keep vital management in place following the nationalisation of the Dutch arm of Fortis and its subsidiary, ABN Amro, just over three weeks ago. It remains to be seen what the government will make of the "limited amounts" the company now says were offered to staff.
A Labour MP finds it "of course suspicious that the sums involved have not been disclosed".
"But," he adds: "I can imagine the reorganisation has led to insecurity [...] which can be damaging." A Socialist Party MP is less circumspect: "Normally, you hand out bonuses if a company does well, but Fortis almost went bankrupt."
Ten-year-olds get lessons on dangers of drinking
The AD features a report about lessons on the dangers of drink, which are being introduced for 10-year-olds in the Hardenberg area in the east of the Netherlands.
A spokeswoman for the local council argues the move is necessary: "A quarter of children start drinking between the ages of 10 and 13. You've got to get the message about the consequences across at that age."
A spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Alcohol Prevention is not so sure. "We're pleased measures are being considered, but it's doubtful whether children of this age are developed enough to understand the subject. I'm also worried that drinking will end up being glamorised because lessons talk about the dangers," she tells us.
Land reclamation in reverse
Nrc.next covers a very Dutch problem: giving land back to the sea. A government commission has advised that the sea defences of the Hertogin Hedwige (Duchess Hedwig) polder in Zeeland province should be dismantled, and its nearly 300 hectares of good arable land flooded.
The move is necessary to compensate for the environmental damage caused by deepening the Westerschelde channel, which connects the Belgian port of Antwerp to the sea.
The plan is being resisted by people in Zeeland and they are backed by MPs. The commission looked at 78 alternatives but found the original plan to flood this particular polder the best by far.
Nrc.next quotes the report: "It hurts the Zeeland soul to have to return land won long ago from the sea. However, the commission believes it is high time to resolve the situation."
Dutch happy with education and healthcare
Trouw treats us to some good news, with an inside-page headline: "Dutch happy with services". And it's official: the figures come from the Social and Cultural Planning Office.
Three-quarters of the population are satisfied with healthcare and 60 percent with education, while a whopping 80 percent of people on benefits are pleased with the way they are treated. Even the tax office, which has come in for almost unmitigated criticism in recent years, can boast a 70-percent satisfaction rating.
A researcher explains: "The public services have an image problem. At birthday parties, in the press and on TV, it's the problems that always come to the fore."
It seems we are fair about the local services which affect us, while reserving our ire for those organisations that operate on a national level.
"The local head teacher is perfectly all right, the local councillor a little less so, but the policy maker in The Hague is not to be trusted," the researcher says.
The police and the courts came out worse in the research, with just under 50 percent of people branding them mediocre to bad.
Lesbian couples wed on special train
De Telegraaf reports of weddings taking place in the inside of a Dutch railway carriage.
Inside the carriage, two women, clad in their Sunday best, sit hand in hand, surrounded by smiling guests, while a female registrar officiates at their marriage. Yes, three lesbian couples tied the knot on a special train from Naarden-Bussum to Utrecht yesterday.
We should point out that weddings are not commonplace on the Dutch rail network. The event in fact marked a national campaign, the Netherlands Reads (Nederland Leest), which is co-sponsored by the main Dutch passenger railway company.
The campaign focuses on a book by Dutch author Harry Mulisch, entitled Twee Vrouwen (Two Women), which is on a lesbian relationship.
[Radio Netherlands / Mike Wilcox / Expatica]