Prime minister hits back at critics

The most vulnerable members of society will benefit the most from the Dutch economic recovery, said prime minister Jan Pieter Balkenende on Thursday during the second day of the general parliamentary debate on the budget.

More employment means more chances for young people, the long-term jobless and immigrants, the prime minister said. Balkenende robustly rejected yesterday’s claims by Labour opposition leader Wouter Bos that his cabinet had made the weakest groups in society bear the burden of the tough measures that had been necessary to get the Dutch economy back into shape. ‘We asked for what was necessary but families and the elderly were protected as much as possible,’ said Balkenende.
The last few years were difficult economically, he went on, but people had been prepared to work on solving the country’s problems by moderating pay demands and improving quality within the healthcare and education sectors and the police force. Balkenende also rejected accusations that the Dutch economy had been slower to recover than the rest of Europe, pointing out instead that the rate of economic growth in the Netherlands was better than in other countries. The prime minister praised the trade unions and employers’ associations for this ‘mega achievement’ but added that government reforms in the areas of social security, disability allowance (WAO) and early retirement have also paid a major role in the country’s success.

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