Opposition critical of policy plans

15th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

15 June 2007, AMSTERDAM (AP) - The Dutch government revealed a series of citizen-inspired plans Thursday after its first 100 days in office, including programmes for cutting bike theft, making school books free for students and requiring all new buildings to be more energy efficient.

15 June 2007

AMSTERDAM (AP) - The Dutch government revealed a series of citizen-inspired plans Thursday after its first 100 days in office, including programmes for cutting bike theft, making school books free for students and requiring all new buildings to be more energy efficient.

"Politics is about having clear goals in mind," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said of his first concrete policy choices since taking office in February. It's "listening, making plans and then taking forceful action."

The plans will be funded by an unallocated EUR10 billion - with exact spending details withheld until next year's budget is presented in September.

The 74 theoretical goals and 10 actual projects revealed Thursday are the fulfilment of an unusual promise.

While other executives usually attempt to set the tone for their administration by vigorously pushing new policies in their first 100 days in office, Balkenende instead vowed to send his centrist Cabinet out into the country to listen to citizens and hold town meetings before deciding what it should do in the coming four years.

The idea was roundly derided by the opposition as a plan to "do nothing for 100 days." But it made some sense given that the 2007 budget was already set when the Cabinet took office in February, limiting possibilities for radical changes.

"We caused a lot of sparks, we got a lot of criticism, and we heard things that reinforce our own convictions," Balkenende said of the experiment.

Critics remained vocal after Balkenende unveiled the results, saying the plans are still too vague or trivial.

"In terms of what this should have resulted in, namely concrete plans about what they're going to do now, it's very thin," said Mark Rutte, leader of the opposition VVD party. "If things keep on going this way, in another 100 days we're going to have another presentation just like this one."

Pointing out one concrete goal, Balkenende discussed a plan to halve the number of bicycle thefts, one of the most common crimes in this bike-loving country. With 250,000 stolen every year, "the dissatisfaction over bike theft is very large," he said. He promised more bike racks and a designated place for reporting stolen bikes.

Balkenende said one of the 74 goals is for the Netherlands to eventually sign a new European "treaty" _ studiously avoiding the word "constitution" after Dutch voters roundly rejected the proposed European Constitution in a June 2005 referendum.

"We want to belong (to Europe) in the future, too," he said. "But in a way that we have a grip on."

He said the Cabinet would work to educate people about "what's happening in Europe" because "what you don't know you can't love."

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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