Finance minister Wouter Bos has got his work cut out for him today if he wants his 2009 spending plans to be positively received by both MPs and the population at large.
He has repeatedly said that the Netherlands is in good economic shape and that it has nothing to fear from the US credit crisis. But he does not seem to be very good at persuading the man in the street that everything in the garden is rosy.
Two opinion polls published to coincide with today’s budget presentation both show that support for the government is dwindling.
In one, 45% of those polled think the government is making things worse, in the other, the cabinet is given a score of five out of 10 and told that it just does not listen.
Not a very good result for a cabinet which used the word ‘together’ 25 times in its coalition agreement just 18 months ago. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ feeling is getting stronger, allowing nationalist parties like Rita Verdonk’s TON and Geert Wilders’ PVV to feed on the disquiet.
The Dutch political system is not only built on consensus but on solidarity. As a Labour party minister, Bos should never have approved measures which mean that the only people likely to be worse off after this budget are (some )pensioners and minimum income families – whatever the state of the economy.
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