Majority of public unhappy with budget cuts

17th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

17 September 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government faces a daunting backlash from the public, with a survey indicating 60 percent of the population has "trouble" accepting its planned budget cutbacks and 39 percent are willing to go out on strike or participate in protests to stop them.

17 September 2004

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government faces a daunting backlash from the public, with a survey indicating 60 percent of the population has "trouble" accepting its planned budget cutbacks and 39 percent are willing to go out on strike or participate in protests to stop them.

The public is particularly opposed to the increase of the minimum pensionable age to 67, working a 40-hour week for the same wage and the abolition of fiscally attractive pre-pension and VUT early retirement schemes.

Much of the 2005 Budget was released on Wednesday night by RTL News, which got its hands on a leaked copy prior to embargoed copies going to the media on Friday. There were few sweeteners in the leaked document.

With the economy still recovering from last year's recession, the government is holding a tight rein on the nation's finances. Some EUR 2.5 billion is expected to be cut from the budget next year alone.

The main points from the budget include estimates that the economy will grow by 1.25 percent this year and 1.5 percent in 2005, that unemployment will rise from 505,000 this year to 550,000 next year and that the budget deficit will be cut from 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 2.7 next year.

The Maurice de Hond opinion poll indicated the greatest level of dissatisfaction was among union members, with 75 percent of them opposed to the Cabinet's cutbacks, news agency ANP reported on Friday.

Even government party voters are displeased by the plans, with 47 percent of Liberal VVD voters seriously concerned about the economising. Some 35 percent of Christian Democrat CDA voters felt the same.

The abolition of the pc-prive system — which allows employees to buy a home computer with a partially tax-free loan from their employer — and halving the spaarloon savings scheme were also unpopular, with 20 and 24 percent of 750 people polled expressing their opposition to the plans.

Commissioned by NOS Radio 1 Journal, the survey found 6 percent on respondents were not willing to work more flexibly.

Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm will unveil the budget on Prinsjesdag next week and will reportedly tell Parliament that the government has to continue to cut spending to ensure the "heavy flu" the country is suffering does not turn into a "chronic illness".

Of note is that 51 percent of the survey respondents accept the general principle that sweeping austerity measures are necessary. Among the VVD and CDA voters, 70 percent agreed. But only 25 percent of left-wing voters thought the cutbacks were necessary.

The willingness of people to take action against the cabinet's plans is reasonably high, with 39 percent prepared to strike or demonstrate. More than half back the trade union movement's campaign against the government, with mass protests planned in Rotterdam on 20 September and in Amsterdam on 2 October.

Ten percent of respondents unhesitatingly said they intended to participate in the protest on Museumplein in Amsterdam. It has previously been reported that 100,000 people could turn out for next month's demonstration.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news, Dutch budget

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