Bitter pills

The main reason for the unbelievably complicated and bureaucratic way of paying for healthcare in Holland is an obsession with solidarity between the sick and the healthy. And an insistence that everyone should basically pay the same. (more…)  More >


Smoking

‘Murder in Amsterdam’, the new book by Anglo-Dutch writer Ian Buruma, has recently been translated into Dutch under the title ‘Dood van een gezonde roker’ – the Dutch title refers to the murder of Theo van Gogh who was hardly ever seen without a cigarette in his mouth. (more…)  More >


The Buck

It is probably quite easy to resign as a minister when you know there is an election nine weeks away anyway. Justice minister Piet Hein Donner, facing his third sticky patch as a minister, and planning minister Sybilla Dekker, were very quick to hand in their resignations yesterday after publication of the damning Schiphol fire report. (more…)  More >


Sorry

It now transpires that the police, Amsterdam council’s environment department, national shipping inspectors, environment ministry and public prosecution officials and the port authorities were all involved in deciding what to do with the tanker Probo Koala. (more…)  More >


Sinterklaas

Budget day yesterday was bit like the Dutch Sinterklaas celebration: lots of present-giving accompanied by a sermon-like poem explaining why you deserve a new pair of socks. (more…)  More >


Votecatcher

With the latest polls putting the Christian Democrats just one seat behind Labour, prime minister Jan Pieter Balkenende must be a happy man today. (more…)  More >


Sandcastle

The Amsterdam district of Bos and Lommer is famous for its poor housing, high unemployment levels and large ethnic minority population. So it was with great pomp and circumstance that the council unveiled its sparkly new shopping centre and housing complex last year. (more…)  More >


Solidarity

Holland’s newest civil service trade union, the AVV, is taking pension fund giant ABP to court, arguing that it discriminates against younger staff. The case revolves around the thorny topic of early retirement. (more…)  More >


Tilting at windmills

Once the perogative of Don Quixote, it is now the pastime of Dutch politicians. Especially when Islam is the subject of discussion. In an interview with Vrij Nederland today justice minister Piet Hein Donner says that Sharia law could be introduced in the Netherlands if there was a two-thirds majority in favour. Because that is how democracy works, said the deeply religious minister. (more…)  More >


Hard lessons

For years governments have been trying to get more students - and girls in particular - to take up science at university. But judging by today’s OECD figures, their efforts are having little effect. (more…)  More >


Ignorance is bliss

Dutch politicians and media are still falling over themselves to express their shock and outrage at being ‘lied to’ following Bush’s admission that the Americans had indeed kept terrorist suspects locked up in secret detention centres outside the US. (more…)  More >


Hot air

It is not often that one feels sympathy for the Dutch energy companies - what with their never-ending cries of ‘unfair’ and ‘help, the Europeans are coming (to take us over)’ while they knock up profits that would have many companies in the real world laughing all the way to the Bahamas (Nuon reported last month that its net income for the first six months was up 70%...). (more…)  More >


Smoke

It looks very much as if the forthcoming debate on the Schiphol detention centre fire is going to get nasty. Various newspapers this morning said the cabinet totally disagrees with the preliminary report’s findings which claims all sorts of fire regulations were broken at the centre where 11 people last year. (more…)  More >


Suffrage

The election campaign has not even begun and all the big parties are falling over each other to bring in free créche places for all the country’s kids. The idea appears in most manifestos. The politicians obviously see it as a vote catcher. (more…)  More >


Telfault

So you come back from holiday and you check your mobile phone bill and it seems to be a bit high. So you download a detailed bill and discover you have apparently spent €33 on sending data to an unknown fax (with a 06 number) in the Netherlands. You’ve called this number 15 times, several times on one day. Strange how the number does not appear in your phone’s memory... but there you go. (more…)  More >


Manifesto

The VVD’s election manifesto is a guaranteed headline grabber with its plans to scrap crèche fees, cut income tax by 3% across the board and give start-ups a three-year tax free break. (more…)  More >