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Dutch budget agreement not popular15 October 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
After two long weeks of negotiation, the 2014 budget was concluded on October 12. Now, the criticisms have begun.
After revealing the budget on Prinsjesdag, the government saw one opposition party after another drop out of the talks, leaving only Democrats 66, the Christian Union and Reformed Political Party (SGP). Nonetheless, an agreement on the budget was signed Friday night with between them and the ruling coalition People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Labour (PvdA) parties.
At a press conference, all representatives emphasised the importance of the agreement, concluded as it was during a crisis (both economic and political). Now, however, both opposition parties and unions have come forward to express their disagreement.
Those political parties who did not join the negotiations were almost unanimous in their disapproval.
Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) leader Sybrand Buma called it bad for the economy and for jobs. "Additional taxes that remain such as tax increases or new taxes such as water charges are not improvements, but deteriorations."
New leader of retirees party 55PLUS Norbert Klein called it a "ratatouille agreement" on Twitter and said there was nothing for the elderly in the plans.
Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer said the agreement was making adjustments in the wrong direction, leaving ordinary people to pay the bill. "This is exactly the reason we did not participate in these negotiations. We must not put sticking plasters on fundamentally wrong politics."
Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom (PVV) said it was simply tinkering at the margins. "Brussels demands six billion [euros] and Brussels gets six million. It is an historic blunder."
Green Left party leader Bram van Oijk criticised the agreement for giving the richest 15 per cent of households a gift of half a billion euros, which he described as a waste of money and little to do with a "fair share." He added, however, that he was happy with the investment in education and that cuts to self-employed people were reversed.
"The government is still raising too much tax on businesses and citizens," said the employers union VNO-NCW, entrepreneurs association MKB-Nederland and the Dutch Agriculture and Horticulture Federation (LTO Nederland) in a joint response.
Photo by Minister-president Rutte
The employers organisations' statement also criticised The Hague’s own expenditure. "National income has not grown since 2008, but this government’s expenditure has increased by 45 billion euros. That is a fundamental error and bad for the economy."
The Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) continues to disagree with the six billion euros in cuts that the government wants to implement.
It is also waiting to see whether the cuts will have a negative impact on a social agreement the confederation signed with the government earlier this year.
The Dutch General Association for the Elderly (ANBO) stated that retirees were in no way better off under this agreement, saying that the gap between workers and retirees still exists. "This agreement has changed absolutely nothing there."
One happy group
The only organisation to express pleasure with the plan was the freelancers association VZZP. "At last freelancers are out of the danger which they were manoeuvred into by the government."
Commenting that since 1998, no government has served its full term, the report stated that "Repeated cabinet crises fuelled public uncertainty about the country’s economic course." Hopefully, the current troubles will not have such a negative effect this time.