Coalition picks up austerity package talks, no deals with opposition

Dutch ministers on Monday restarted their discussions on cutting some €6bn from government spending in an effort to reduce the budget deficit to within eurozone limits next year.

The austerity package and the government’s 2014 spending plans will be presented to parliament on September 17 and ministers have already made it clear they are not looking for more than €6bn in cuts and tax increases, despite disappointing economic forecasts published last week.

Opposition parties have not been asked to contribute to the talks, even though the government will need other party support to steer new legislation through the upper house of parliament.

Budget day

Alexander Pechtold, leader of the D66 Liberal democrats, sold Radio 1 news he was telephoned on Friday by finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem and told ‘see you on budget day’.

It was ‘astonishing’, Pechtold said, considering how in June Sijsselbloem had been looking for opposition support and had invited them to join the talks in mid August.

Sources in The Hague told the Volkskrant opposition leaders have not being asked to contribute because they were making too many demands. For example, GroenLinks wants greater commitment to a greener tax system while D66 wants changes to student finance reforms. Pechtold denied the claims.

The government has a majority of seats in the lower house but not in the senate.

Decisions

Some decisions have already been taken. Civil service pay is to be frozen for a further period and the income tax bands will not be increased in line with inflation, meaning everyone will pay more tax.

One third of the austerity package, or €2bn, will be generated by tax increases, the VVD‘s parliamentary party leader Halbe Zijlstra is quoted by RTLZ as saying on Monday.