RNW Press Review – Monday 21 January 2008 – by Georg Schreuder Hes

21st January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Radio Netherlands gives a rundown of the press today.

Today’s De Telegraaf reports that increasing numbers of Dutch motorists driving leased cars would like to trade in their current vehicle for a hybrid car because of government tax breaks. Since 1 January, drivers of leased cars with low CO2 emission figures have to add only 14 percent of the car's value to their taxable incomes, compared to 25 percent for less environmentally friendly vehicles.   

However, main Dutch car rental company LeasePlan says that huge fines imposed on leased car drivers who terminate existing contracts are making it difficult for many business drivers to make the switch. Fines for terminating existing contracts can be as high as 6,000 euros. LeasePlan director Rob Keulemans says that drivers of cars with high CO2 emission figures "are feeling trapped in a hostile tax climate."

The company is now offering to pay the termination fines for motorists who change over to hybrid cars - and to LeasePlan of course. The Dutch dealerships of Japanese car makers Honda and Toyota report an increasing popularity of their hybrid cars.

It's the economy
De Volkskrant reports that Dutch central bank President Nout Wellink is much less optimistic about the country's economic prospects than the cabinet. The central bank has adjusted its growth figures downward in connection with the US credit crisis.

Mr Wellink counts with a 1.5 to 2.5 percent growth of the gross domestic product. "But I think it's more likely to be 1.5 than 2.5", said Mr Wellink who has urged the cabinet to create additional financial reserves in case of economic difficulties.

In an interview with de Volkskrant, Rabobank CEO Bert Heemskerk has said that he expects money to become scarce and more expensive, leading to a substantial drop in investments. "As volume goes down, margins will go up. And banks will have to pay more to attract funds."
However, Finance Minister Wouter Bos says he will adhere to the existing financial framework as drawn up by the coalitions partners last year. Mr Bos will only intervene if the budget deficit gets out of hand.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende believes that the US credit crisis for the most part will bypass the Netherlands because of decreasing US influence on the global economy. He added that the rise of the Indian and Chinese economies has made the Netherlands less dependent on the US.

Today's AD reports that Dutch high school computer systems are "leaking like a sieve." According to the paper, students repeatedly succeed in hacking school computer systems to gain access to grades, school reports and tests.

A recent study by the Foundation Knowledge Network, which provides ICT support to high schools, showed that "none of the schools investigated were completely secure." The organisation says that schools run considerable risks. "The students are very smart and make it a sport to hack into school computers. Sometimes they even gain access to teachers' personal data".

Since 1 January, hacking a computer system carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, but few schools file reports for fear it might give them a bad name.

School protests
De Volkskrant reports that "students are fanning the smouldering flames of resistance at high schools". Following last year's student demonstrations against a compulsory government norm for the number of hours taught at high schools, the national students' committee is today launching a new attack on what it calls 'pointless hours'.

At many high schools, students just sit around in a classroom for a number of hours each week, because schools do not have enough teachers but must meet the norm or face huge fines.

The national students committee is calling on students to stay away from those classes, but says it will also present a new action group called A conscious choice for quality which consists of high schools which refuse to include these pointless hours in their rosters.

The high schools argue that it is financially impossible to meet the 1,040-hour norm. However, Deputy Education Minister Marja van Bijstervelt is determined to enforce the new norm.

According to de Volkskrant, the question is now who is strongest: politics or the schools and their students. The government can have students arrested and impose fines on schools, but it remains to be seen whether the schools, which appear to fall back on civil disobedience tactics, will give in.

Recycled furniture
On its front page, today's De Telegraaf features a picture of a couple looking at some old furniture in one of the many Dutch recycled goods stores. The paper writes that tables, chairs and sofas from decades past have become so popular that the recycled goods stores have difficulties meeting demand.

Interior design expert Monique van der Rejden says that "people put increasing emphasis on cosiness instead of owning the latest designer furniture." According to De Telegraaf, furniture from the 1950s is the latest trend.

The director of one of the recycled goods stores confirms the increasing popularity of retro-furniture and adds that "all of a sudden we are getting customers who have a little more money to spend."

[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]

Subject: Dutch news 

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