RNW Press Review, Wednesday 28 May 2008

28th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Catch the news in brief from the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

28 May 2008

Herfkens expresses amazement by current furore.
De Volkskrant today leads with the continuing saga of Eveline Herfkens, the former Dutch Development Co-operation minister. She received USD 280,000 in Dutch subsidies for her apartment in New York when she went to work for the United Nations. The payment was in breach of UN rules.

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen is threatening legal action to get Herfkens to pay the money back and says she should have known she was not entitled to the payments, citing a UN report on the case.

Herfkens, however, tells the paper: "I did break the UN's rules, but unintentionally and acting in good faith. It's a matter for me and the UN."

In an interview, she goes on to say she is "amazed" by the current furore and describes the campaign to get her to pay the money back as "character assassination". However, she confides to the paper that "if it doesn't go well, I'll pay".

De Telegraaf tells us that Herfkens has admitted being careless and that MPs want her to cough up. The paper also says that the foreign office may agree to a settlement in which she returns at least some of the money. However, it goes on to quote one Socialist Party MP as arguing that "ordinary citizens aren't offered settlements in comparable situations".

Fees for mortgages drop
NRC Handelsblad reports that notary's fees for arranging mortgages have been dropping steadily since 1999 when the law was changed to allow market forces to regulate the profession.

Notaries' services around business and family practice and for the writing of wills and contracts have, on the other hand, continued to become more expensive.

An academic tells us that competition has meant that the quality of service has improved.

"Notaries have realised they have to be client-friendly," he says. However, despite brushing up their image, their fees for real estate work, which represents 70 percent of their income, have gone down. "Notaries have become more vulnerable in this field because large concerns can dictate conditions," he explains.

Milk price way too low
Trouw's front-page photo shows three young men waving flags while sitting on a muck-spreader which is spewing milk over a field. At first glance, you might think the picture illustrates the beginning of European Football Championships madness, but they are apparently protesting at the low price of milk.

This has led the Dutch Dairy Board to advise farmers to destroy their milk. The idea is to force the price up by halting deliveries to factories.

Late in 2007, the price peaked at just under EUR 0.50 cents per litre but has since fallen to around EUR 0.35 cents.

The farmers say today's price fails to cover recent rises in production costs, partly due to hikes in the price of diesel fuel. An agricultural sector spokesman, however, says destroying milk gives the wrong signal and "will not be understood, especially in this time of high food prices, when nearly one billion people regularly have too little to eat".

Work longer, Dutch people
The AD's front page is largely given up to reporting Employment Minister Piet Hein Donner's plans to encourage people to stay in work beyond the present retirement age of 65.

He believes that our working lives must be lengthened to deal with demographic changes whereby a shrinking workforce will no longer be able to pay for a growing pensions bill.

"The exodus of elderly workers will only really begin in 2010. The inflow of young people will not be able to keep up with it," he tells us.

His plans include allowing companies to sack over-65-year-olds who become sick. They would then immediately begin collecting their pensions. People above retirement age would also be the first to be laid off during large-scale redundancies.

Computer problem leads to tax blunders
"Taxman's blunders" fumes De Telegraaf's headline. Apparently, thousands of tax payers have had either a pleasant surprise or a nasty shock after reading their tax demands.

A computer problem has resulted in people receiving thousands of euros too much or too little in mortgage allowances.

The paper reminds its mass readership that the Dutch audit office and MPs have both recently read the tax service the riot act on its impressively large list of blunders.

A spokeswoman from the tax office is at a loss: "We ourselves don't yet know what caused this error," she explains.

[Radio Netherlands / Mike Wilcox / Expatica]

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