No sooner is the budget released and partially digested and politicians of every political hue start jumping up and down demanding more money for this and less taxes on that.
The reaction of the opposition parties are always pretty predictable: the Socialist Party wants more money to combat poverty, the left-wing GroenLinks want more spending on the environment, the free-market Liberals want tax cuts and the anti-Islam PVV, making its budget debate debut, spouted its usual anti-Islam diatribe.
No, it’s the demands of the coalition parties which need to be followed most carefully. After all, they form a majority in parliament and have the power to block measures they do not like.
Almost before finance minister Wouter Bos had spoken, the leaders of the three coalition partners – the Christian Democrats, ChristenUnie and Labour – said that plans to reduce child benefit for better-off families from 2010 should be scrapped.
The three coalition parties also want secondary school textbooks to be free from next year for all pupils and the two Christian parties want more money for defence. All those wishes will be probably be honoured, with a bit of tinkering here and there.
Ministers know that they have to sacrifice some aspects of their budget to get more unpopular measures through. A few spoonfuls of sugar are a very good sweetener to help your MPs swallow a cut in spending power and higher taxes all round.
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