Outrage as cuts hit sick and disabled
2 December 2003
AMSTERDAM — The most vulnerbale sections of Dutch society, such as the disabled and chronically sick, face the biggest loss of purchasing power as a result of the government’s stringent economising measures, a government minister has conceded.
These groups risk falling victim to the tight budgetary plans, such as rent subsidy cutbacks and a higher personal healthcare contribution, being introduced by the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 coalition Cabinet.
Faced with a struggling economy and a mounting budget deficit, the government has slashed public spending to revitalise its finances. A total of EUR 5.7 billion was cut from the 2004 Budget as part of the government’s drive to save EUR 17 billion between now and 2007.
Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus has since informed Parliament by letter that almost no one will suffer more than a 5 percent decline in purchasing power. But he admitted the nation’s handicapped and chronically ill might suffer comparatively more and see their spending power drop by up to 8 percent.
The Cabinet had previously claimed that no one would suffer more than a 1 percent fall in purchasing power.
The Lower House of Parliament, or Tweede Kamer, will debate proposals later on Tuesday aimed at compensating the handicapped and chronically sick for the loss of purchasing power.
MPs are expected to demand that an extra EUR 50 million be directed towards special social security purposes, an NOS news report said. Taxes might also be adjusted in favour of vulnerable groups.
The debate comes after green-left GroenLinks MP Ineke van Gent urged last week for a one-off Robin Hood-type of tax of EUR 500 be imposed on the nation’s wealthy, claiming that the gulf between rich and poor in 2004 would become unacceptably large.
Meanwhile, opposition Labour PvdA MP Saskia Noorman-Den Uyl said she was shocked at the letter De Geus has sent to the Parliament. She labelled the Cabinet’s economising measures as “embarrassing”.
Coalition government Christian Democrat CDA MPs have also expressed concern over the fate of the nation’s handicapped and chronically sick. They have demanded that the budget cuts do not come at the expense of people already faced with difficulties. But the CDA parliamentarians are also urging that solutions should not cost more money.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news