Dutch budget in surplus, way cleared for new government spending

Dutch budget in surplus, way cleared for new government spending

The Dutch economy is poised to grow by 2.1% this year and 1.8% in 2018, the government’s macro-economic think tank CPB said on Friday in a new report. Both years will show a budget surplus and unemployment will continue to fall, the CPB said. Earlier on Friday, national statistics office CBS said the government booked a budget surplus of nearly €3bn last year, the first surplus since 2008. The budget surplus figures are welcome news for the next government and clear the way for new spending initiatives. Both unions and employers were quick to stake their claims. The FNV, the country’s biggest trade union federation, says the money should go on softening the impact of the rising state pension age on people doing hard physical labour. Employers organisation VNO-NCW says the new cabinet should invest heavily in future-proofing the Dutch economy by stimulating the development of the circular economy, plus energy efficiency and digitalisation. Exports Several areas will help drive forward growth. ‘Exports will continue to do well, and companies will increase their investments,’ the CBS said. In addition, household spending, investment in housing and government spending will have a positive impact. Higher energy prices will help push up inflation to 1.6% this year and 1.4% in 2018. This means the increase in spending power will be lower this year and in 2018 than it was in 2016. Previous policy However, the CBS points out the figures are based on previous government policy and do not take any changes the new administration is likely to implement into account. In addition, elections in several EU member states, Brexit and uncertainties about US trade policy and financial regulation will have an impact. ‘Growth figures of 3%, 4% or even 5% are a thing of the past,’ CPB director Laura van Geest said. ‘Lower growth is the future, not only for the Netherlands, but also for many other western countries. This is the result, among other things, of population ageing and declining productivity growth. Stimulating potential growth is an option, but it can be intractable.’  More >

Man arrested nine years after DNA match

Rotterdam port could heat homes in Leiden and The Hague A man has been arrested for a violent robbery and a rape, nine years after police matched his DNA to the crimes, reports the AD on Friday. The offences, committed in 1997 and 1998, have led eventually to the arrest of a 43-year-old man from Drachten on Thursday. But it emerged that the man’s DNA made a hit with samples collected from the crime scenes in 2008, when the police and OM prosecution service were notified. ‘The public prosecution and police are investigating what went wrong and why no investigation was started, although the match was known,’ said the OM in a press release. The AD newspaper labelled the delay ‘blunder justice’. In June 1997, a 22-year-old prostitute in Leeuwarden was violently robbed of a gold necklace that the customer had offered her in lieu of payment. That woman died in 2008. In July 1998, a 35-year-old woman was raped in her home in Delft by a man she had met on a night out. She has now been informed about the arrest, as have the relatives of the first victim. Both cases had been closed. But for reasons unknown the DNA match came to the attention of The Hague’s vice squad last year, and  subsequent investigation led to the arrest this week. The OM has said the processes around DNA reports have improved and a new national procedure to monitor matches will begin in April.   More >

Dutch cancer charity joins tobacco lawsuit

Rotterdam port could heat homes in Leiden and The Hague Cancer charity KWF Kankerbestrijding has made a formal complaint against the big four tobacco companies, accusing them of grievous bodily harm and fraud. The organisation says the tobacco firms have lied to smokers about the damaging side effects of their addiction, particularly by using cigarettes that give false readings in test results through the use of tiny ventilation holes in filters. Cigarette smoke is tested in laboratories for tar and nicotine, but the results are distorted by the use of holes. These are closed up by the mouth and fingers when people smoke, but left open during the testing process. This means people are inhaling up to 2.5 times more chemicals than lab reports show. The KWF says cigarette firms have done this deliberately to mislead the tests. The organisation is now joining forces with a law suit brought by smoker Anne Marie van Veen. ‘People are taking in more dangerous substances than we realised,’ director Michiel Rudolphie told the AD. ‘We knew about the holes but I have never really thought about the legal options... as an organisation that focuses on prevention, I feel we really must join this court case.' Deaths Some 20,000 people die because of the effects of smoking in the Netherlands every year, of which 12,000 have some form of smoking-related cancer. Van Veen’s lawyer Bénédicte Ficq says the KWF support is ‘unbelievably important.’ The tobacco industry does all it can to get people addicted, he said. Industry spokesman directeur Jan Hein Sträter told the AD tobacco firms are not concerned by the threat and that producers are doing nothing wrong. ‘This would appear to be all about publicity,’ he said. The public prosecution department is set to announce in the next few weeks whether to proceed with a prosecution, the AD said.  More >

Campaigners lose pro-refugee court case

Rotterdam port could heat homes in Leiden and The Hague A campaign group that wants to make the Netherlands take the number of refugees agreed with the European Union lost its court case on Friday, reports the Parool. We Gaan Ze Halen, a charitable foundation whose name means ‘let’s bring them here’, is attempting to force the Dutch state to take 8,712 refugees from camps in Greece and Italy, as agreed with other EU members states in September 2015. The Dutch have another six months to fulfil this pledge, having taken around 1,400 people so far – the organisation claims – and a judge in The Hague ruled that because the deadline is not yet up, it is too soon to rule on the matter. The foundation will appeal. ‘It is distressing that the court finds that it is too soon to judge this claim when refugees have often been sitting in camps for two years,’ said the organisation’s lawyers, Gert-Jan van den Bergh and Adriaan Stoop to the Parool. Last year the organisation demonstrated by driving cars to The Hague to show they would pick refugees up themselves, if necessary. It has been campaigning for almost a year to oblige the state to fulfil its part in the EU pledge to take in 160,000 refugees. The subject of refugees has been contentious in the Netherlands. Although numbers dropped dramatically last year after a peak in October 2015, immigration was one of the key issues in the Dutch general elections.   More >

Rotterdam port to heat homes

Rotterdam port could heat homes in Leiden and The Hague In five years’ time homes in Leiden and The Hague and greenhouses in the Westland district could be heated using residual heat generated by industrial activities in Rotterdam port, the NRC reports. The initiative has been drawn up by the port and provincial authorities, energy firm Eneco, gas company GasUnie and Rotterdam's city heating company Warmtebedrijf Rotterdam. The aim is the reuse heat produced by industry and so cut energy use and CO2 emissions. The new network, the initiators say, could provide energy to some 500,000 homes. Heat from the industrial activities in the port would be piped from Rotterdam to Leiden via the Heineken plant in Zoeterwoude, which will also be using the heat, to The Hague. The construction is ‘not rocket science’ the paper quotes provincial deputy and chairman of the Warmtealliantie Han Weber as saying. The only challenge, he said, is finding the right route for the pipelines. ‘We want the urban areas to be energy neutral by 2035 and the greenhouse industry by 2050. Re-using heat will be a crucial tool to achieve this,’ Weber told the paper. Weber says the whole network will cost €4bn to €5bn.  More >