Called to account

So today is officially ‘accountability day’ – the day when ministers are supposed to own up to their successes and failures of the previous year.

It is, in effect, a public self-chastisement ceremony which results in the production of endless lists of what has been achieved and what has not and little else. So what has the Balkenende IV cabinet done since it took office in February 2007?
Spending has been kept within the official parameters and the economy appears to be ticking over nicely, despite the US credit crisis.
The cabinet introduced the amnesty for long-term asylum seekers, but lost the majority of those rejected, and pushed through a free school books plan that threatens to be a disaster for schools and pupils alike.
It has reached a deal on boosting teachers’ pay, agreed to keep Dutch troops in Afghanistan for longer and signed the new European treaty. So far so good.
But the big flagship issues – the 40 urban renewal projects, the introduction of a kilometre tax on motorists, the boosting of employment levels – are stalled. Others – most notably reforming redundancy pay and making it easier to sack employees – have been dropped altogether.
So what do you get when you add it all up? A definite minus according to the the latest opinion polls.

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