Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 18 February 2009

18th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

Dutch economy changes drastically
The latest results revealed by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, CPB, of the country’s growth rate for next year dominates news on Wednesday. The CPB is predicting that the economy will shrink by an unprecedented 3.5 percent while unemployment is expected to rise to nearly nine percent.

Six months ago economists had expected a surplus in the 2010 budget of 1 percent. However, the CPB is now predicting a 5.5 percent deficit.

De Volkskrant quotes Finance Minister Wouter Bos as saying "That’s (a difference) of nearly EUR 40 billion. In no other country has the situation changed so drastically."

De Volkskrant writes that recent optimistic statements by Dutch politicians that the Netherlands would survive the crisis without too much pain are "baseless". "Just a short time ago the cabinet pointed to the Netherlands’ favourable position. The optimistic tone has disappeared.

According to Prime Minister (Jan Peter) Balkenende it’s an "illusion" to think that the government can deal with the problems on its own.

"Everyone must carry his own weight."

The paper says that "It will take years until the government’s financial situation is again healthy – if not decades."

De Telegraaf reports that the Netherlands "will never be like before. Our country will never completely recover from the current, deep-seated economic crisis".

In an editorial the paper writes that the economic decline is the sharpest since the Great Depression in the 1930s. "It will be impossible to keep to the agreed budgetary limit (according to the EU Stability and Growth Pact no country may have a budget deficit of more than 3 percent)."

Although it is a shame to break the agreement "it is unavoidable… The funds which will become available by increasing the budget deficit should be used as much as possible to create jobs."

The paper calls for a "healthy dose of optimism". "It is important that we keep the faith. That we do not get discouraged but work together for the future."

An editorial in NRC Handelsblad also argues that it would be unwise to observe the budgetary limit.

"This is no time for quibbling about the budget. In a crisis such as this one should allow the government’s budget deficit to rise. Thrift would only aggravate the decline."

The newspaper calls on parliament to take to listen to the opinion of the head of the statistics office, who says that lowering the budget deficit to two or three percent would be "unthinkable".

NRC Handelsblad says the Netherlands is too small to go it alone and must take the global economic situation into consideration when deciding policy.

"With foreign trade making up around three-quarters of our gross national product, our country is a ball in the pinball machine of international trade – as the latest prognoses have again made clear."

Reorganisation stress affects one million workers
One in seven workers or nearly a million people in the Netherlands, are suffering from stress and other health problems due to reorganisations carried out by companies in recent years, shows a study conducted by the trade union federation FNV.

The figures are "alarmingly high", says FNV Bondgenoten chairman Henk van der Kolk in a report published by Nrc.next.

He describes the situation as worrisome because the study was conducted end of 2008, before the start of the economic crisis.

Van der Kolk expects “the number of complaints will rise as a result of the (new) reorganisations and lay-offs: around 70 percent of employees say they are uncertain about the future."

Eighty percent of those surveyed said their work had changed in recent years.

While it is normal for companies to change, "it is startling that most work is undergoing change nearly all the time", commented Van der Kolk.

"Employees are expected to be increasingly flexible in order to adapt to new situations. Not only are there reorganisations which entail a change of jobs, but also changes in working methods and irregular shifts."

The survey also showed that people are judged more often on meeting performance targets.

The trade union leader said the new situations may not necessarily lead to problems, as long as employees are involved in the decisions.

However, the study shows that workers’ involvement in the reorganisations "leaves much to be desired".

“Most employees have no say at all about working methods and how their new functions are to be performed,” said Van der Kolk.

Spray catches skin cancer at early stage
AD reports a new spray developed by Dutch dermatologist Martino Neumann of the Erasmus Medical Centre can detect skin cancer at an early stage.

After being sprayed by the fluorescent fluid, the patient has to wait for two hours. Photographs of the skin detect cancers due to changes in colour.

The test detects skin cancer at an early stage and is good news for people in high-risk groups because they can be tested more often, said Neumann.

Text messages by UPC come under fire
The country's largest consumer organisation, the Consumentenbond, is protesting about UPC's new policy of sending text messages to clients who are late in paying their bills.

UPC is a major Dutch provider of digital and cable television, broadband internet and telecommunications.

The Consumentenbond says UPC's methods as "questionable".

In a report by De Telegraaf, spokesman for Consumentenbond Marcel van Beusekom said: "UPC can ask for its money. But one can ask how UPC got the clients' mobile numbers and if they have been informed that it would be used for this purpose."

The message sent to clients who have not paid their bills on time reads: "Pay your overdue UPC invoice. Avoid extra costs and being cut-off."

UPC says the message should not be viewed as a threat, but as a kind of memo that help clients pay on time. A spokesman said "It helps with nine of ten clients."

However, some clients were not too pleased with the text message. "I was frightened out of my wits by that threatening text message. I was only five days late in paying. If I have a complaint about UPC, it always takes them longer to respond."

[Radio Netherlands / Frank Scimone / Expatica]

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