The 2014 budget: editorials point to slow start and trouble ahead

The first budget of Mark Rutte’s second cabinet is under fire in all of the newspaper editorials on Wednesday.

The NRC in its editorial says the budget seems less damaging to the economy than previously feared, but points out that it is difficult to predict what next year will bring. Much will depend on the economies of the Netherlands’ closest trading parties and the state of the euro, the paper says.

Another – national – complication is the fact that the policies outlined yesterday are not definitive: the cabinet lacks senate support, the result of a ‘creaky coalition’, according to the paper.

Meanwhile, the role of the state – public sector spending will reach 40.8% of GDP – is growing instead of shrinking, which begs the question of how this government, and Mark Rutte in particular, view the role of the state in society.

‘This is the third year this country has had a VVD prime minister and the role of the government as night watchman has been extended to include the dawn and the dusk,’ the paper concludes.

Pay freeze?

The Volkskrant also comments on the changeability of the policies. The words ‘pay freeze for civil servants’ had barely left the king’s mouth than the measure had been scrapped, the paper writes.

‘Which part of the budget is next?’ the paper wonders. The signs are not very good with CDA and D66 plotting to break open the social accord. Their alternative? A pay freeze for civil servants. The Volkskrant predicts ‘backroom wranglings’ for the next few weeks.

Trouw in its analysis points out that many of the measures may not bring in the revenue expected of them.

What is more, with spending on health and social security expected to increase in spite of reforms and interest on the Dutch state debt of €446bn set to rise, the present austerity packet will be ‘too limited, and too slow to take effect,’ the paper writes.

Jealousy

Getting the Dutch economy back on track is a difficult task after six years of crisis, writes the Telegraaf. But the cabinet – led by Mark Rutte – has left both the man in the street and industry bleed while it carries on spending money and delaying reforms.

Despite all the criticism, the 2014 budget is more of the same. Almost everyone will have less to spend. In particular, the deep hole the government is digging in middle and higher income households’ pockets is ‘shocking evidence of the policies of jealousy’ anchored in the hastily put together coalition agreement.

This is a demotivating slap in the face to a group of hard-working Dutch people whose support is crucial at a time when the first signs of growth are appearing, the country’s biggest newspaper concludes.

Jobs

The Financieele Dagblad points out that five years ago, the government’s macro-economic forecaster CPB said the crisis would lead to heavy job losses but the total next year is set to be over 400,000 higher than in 2008. The cabinet, and the Labour party in particular, is to blame for this, the paper says.

Much-needed reforms to the housing market, social security, jobs market, in healthcare, pensions and tax have had a half-hearted start, or have been delayed for a couple of years. These are half-baked compromises, the FD said.

The old way of confusing the voter by introducing lots of different measures with a few sweeteners no longer works, the FD said. Voters do not trust what is going on and this is playing a role in mounting unemployment. ‘This country and the crisis deserve a powerful cabinet,’ the paper concludes.


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