Sell ‘silverware’ to avoid further budget cuts, say employers

The government should sell off the ‘silverware’ to raise money rather than trying to find an extra €6bn in savings from the 2014 budget, Bernard Wientjes, head of the biggest employers’ association VNO-NCW, says in Thursday’s Volkskrant.

Wientjes told the paper employers no longer support the government’s plans for extra budget cuts which will include tax increases. More cuts will damage the economy and lead to yet more cuts, he said. ‘We must get out of this downward spiral.’

 

‘The government must make a new plan and take that to Brussels,’ he told the paper. ‘Sell the ABN Amro and SNS Reaal banks, insurer ASR and the mortgage business of ING. This would bring in billions. It is silverware the state never wanted.’

 

He also suggests selling 30% of the state’s shares in Gasunie or the electricity network Tennet.

 

Social agreement

 

His remarks reflect criticism from the trade unions on the new round of spending cuts, which are necessary to lower the budget deficit to 3% in line with EU rules.

 

In April, employers, unions and government signed a social agreement on how to achieve the target but that has now unravelled.

 

Wientjes says the economic situation is dramatic and foresees a decade of stagnation. He advises prime minister Mark Rutte to go to Brussels and present the reform programme already begun with measures such as a more flexible redundancy law and cuts in unemployment benefit.

 

The coalition party leaders, Halbe Zijlstra for the Liberal VVD and Diederik Samsom for Labour, declined to comment on Wientjes’ comments, the Volkskrant said.