Ministers tight-lipped on fall in spending power (UPDATE)

Ministers were unwilling to give details about what was discussed during their meeting on Wednesday which focussed on the lower-than-expected consumer power that is forecast for next year.

Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and most of his cabinet met for the first time since the summer holidays to discuss the budget for the coming year. Their biggest problem is the fall in consumer power forecast for 2008.
According to leaked figures from the central planning office (CPB), households face an average decrease in spending power of at least 0.5% next year which is double earlier estimates, reports ANP news service.
For the elderly and people on minimum incomes, the loss in buying power could rise to 1% and the poorest pensioners could be even worse off unless the cabinet takes action.
The fall in consumer power is due partly to higher healthcare premiums and taxes and lower-than-expected wage rises.
Finance minister Wouter Bos promised before the holidays that he would do his best to ensure that those on low and mid-level incomes would not be worse off next year.
On Wednesday Bos declined to confirm or deny the leaked figures.
One piece of good news is that the government’s current budget deficit looks like turning into a 1% surplus next year, says ANP.
The cabinet will present its 2008 budget on September 18.

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