‘Everyone will feel the pain’ of the government’s strategy to get the budget deficit under control, prime minister Mark Rutte told parliament on Tuesday at the start of a debate on the new coalition’s plans.
The coalition agreement is the realisation of the difficult times facing the economy, Rutte told MPs. People are aware the crisis will not simply blow over and that everyone will have to foot the bill.
Coupled with measures already taken and in the pipeline, the government will have generated €46bn from extra taxes and spending cuts by 2017, he said.
The prime minister’s statement comes just a day after he apologised for the commotion caused by the coalition’s plans to make health insurance income-dependent.
The unprecedented statement, coming just weeks after the new cabinet was formally sworn in, follows major unease over the effect of the plan on middle incomes which led to it being abandoned.
The coalition has now agreed to take slower steps to reduce the gap between rich and poor by tinkering with the tax-free income base. This will go up for low earners and be reduced or phased out for those on higher incomes over a three-year period.
As leader of the biggest opposition party, Geert Wilders was the first to state his position on the new alliance and recent events.
‘What a mess, what a mockery, what a disgrace from this cabinet, run by a sorry prime minister,’ the leader of the anti-immigration party said.
The debate is set to continue into the evening and resume again on Wednesday.
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