Armed forces chief says Dutch military ops need more resources (update)

Health insurers to take over psychiatric care costs

The chief of the Dutch armed forces says the army, navy and air force need strengthening so that the Netherlands can continue to contribute to conflicts on the edge of Europe. Tom Middendorp says in an interview with the armed forces newspaper Defensiekrant that ‘I regularly have to say "no" or limit our contribution when asked to take part.' ‘We are on the edge,’ Middendorp said. [banner] Research by broadcaster Nos shows that Dutch spending on defence has gone down from 2.4% of GDP prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and is now around half that. In total, the defence ministry this year has a budget of €7.3bn on a total budget of almost €260bn. The lack of resources is beginning to have an impact on staff and the pressure on them is rising, he said. Fundamentals It is of ‘crucial importance’ that the fundamentals are strengthened, supplies are brought back up to the right level and equipment is usable, he said. ‘We have been stripped down over the past few years and we are now in a tricky position, given the worsening security situation,’ he told the paper. Politicians, the defence chief said, recognised the situation. ‘We have had more money to reduce the worst of the problems and the minister is working hard to continue this,’ he said. Syria Last month, Middendorp told the NRC in an interview that there is ‘little chance’ of a solution to the fight against Islamic militant group IS unless the organisation is also tackled in Syria. Therefore it would be logical for Dutch F-16 fighter jets to attack targets in Syria as well as Iraq, Middendorp told the paper. ‘From a military technical point of view, there are arguments to remove the limits on the mission,’ he said. ‘But we have to look at what the impact would be elsewhere. That homework has not yet been completed.’ The Netherlands has always insisted there be an international mandate for direct intervention in Syria.  More >

Investigation underway into crane crash

Health insurers to take over psychiatric care costs A criminal investigation is now underway into Monday’s crane accident in Alphen aan den Rijn, in which two cranes and part of a prefabricated bridge fell on several buildings, news agency ANP says on Tuesday. No one was injured when the cranes, which were standing on a pontoon on the river, began to sway and toppled onto nearby buildings, crushing several homes and shops. Three people are being treated as ‘suspects’ in the investigation. ‘It is much too soon to say if any criminal acts have taken place,’ public prosecutor Kitty Nooy told reporters. Treating the three as suspects entitles them to remain silent and to have a lawyer. [banner] Building firm Mourik, which is in charge of the bridge building process, has begun assessing how the cranes and the bridge section can be removed from the crash site. In the meantime, shipping is being rerouted to avoid this stretch of the Old Rhine, a narrow branch of the Rhine delta. Failure Crane operator Jan Zwagerman, who applied for the Alphen project contract but did not win, said the project was doomed to fail. The cranes were not suitable to be used on pontoons because of the lack of stability, he told broadcaster Nos. ‘Once the surface is no longer level, they cannot be steered,’ he said. ‘The driver can do nothing to correct their positioning.’ Delft university professor Frans Bijlaard told Nos that no one had taken into account possible problems. ‘Otherwise the properties would have been evacuated before the work began,’ he said. ‘That did not happen and people were lucky to escape with their lives.’ No injuries Officials said at first 20 people had been injured but reduced this later to one man. He had hip and leg injuries but had sustained these before the accident, mayor Liesbeth Spies told local broadcaster Studio Alphen. One dog was killed. The council is now working to ensure the worse of the rubble is cleared up and that people who were evacuated from their homes can return. This, Spies said, is the council's first priority.  More >

Football matches scrapped as police strike

Health insurers to take over psychiatric care costs At least four opening matches for the new Eredivisie football season have been cancelled because of the police strikes. The Heerenveen - De Graafschap game is the latest to be put on hold because of the strike. The match was due to take place on Friday but Heerenveen's mayor has decided to scrap the fixture because of the lack of police cover. Also cancelled are duals between PEC Zwolle and Cambuur, ADO Den Haag and PSV and Willem II and Vitesse. [banner] The Feyenoord - FC Utrecht tie will go ahead because that is the only game unaffected by the police action. Police unions have said they will stop work during and after the matches in support of their pay claim unless justice minister Ard van der Steur comes up with a better offer.  More >

Dutch one-man firms generate 10% of GDP

Health insurers to take over psychiatric care costs Dutch one-man firms generate turnover of some €62.5bn a year towards the economy, equivalent to 10.2% of national GDP, according to the latest edition of the ZZP Barometer. The survey, based on a representative sample of almost 1,500 people, shows freelancers (ZZP'ers in Dutch) earn an average of €68.18 per hour. The Netherlands has some one million freelancers and interims, ZZP Barometer says. Of the time freelancers spend on their company, 894 hours are billable to clients, resulting in average annual profit of €37,000, the Barometer says. Women bill some 25% fewer hours than men. [banner] The ZZP Barometer was set up in 2009 and aims to provide independent facts and figures about the self-employed. It is sponsored by a variety of companies, from banks to staffing agencies. However, a survey last month by freelancer website said freelance pay rates are coming under increasing pressure. On average, a freelancer now charges €44 an hour, down €1 on a year ago. Project managers, coaches and support staff are the highest paid, while translators, sales staff and secretaries earn an average of €35 an hour, the website said.  More >

Questions over psychiatric care cost plan

Health insurers to take over psychiatric care costs Government plans to transfer the entire cost of providing psychiatric care and other mental health services to health insurers are likely to fail, experts and care providers say in Tuesday's Financieele Dagblad. The coalition agreement between the VVD Liberals and Labour party states that from 2017 health insurers will be responsible for buying in psychiatric services because they will be able to do it cheaper and more efficiently than the current health boards. At the moment, health insurers get compensation if they have policyholders who need expensive psychiatric services. That will stop from 2017 and care providers warn that insurers will be reluctant to take on potentially expensive patients. [banner] In addition, mechanisms used to control spending on physical illnesses cannot be applied to mental health needs such as depression, the experts say. Health minister Edith Schippers has established a special committee which is looking into the changes and the potential impact on expensive patients with unpredictable needs.  More >