Coalition parties to hold crisis talks

The three coalition party leaders are to meet this week to decide if they want to continue working together before dealing with a number of heavyweight economy-boosting proposals, the Telegraaf reports on Monday.

The paper says prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende (Christian Democrats) and his two deputies, Wouter Bos (Labour) and Andre Rouvoet (orthodox Christian ChristenUnie party), will meet their parliamentary party leaders at the prime minister’s official residence.
The meeting was originally called to discuss the spring budget statement but this has now been overtaken by disagreements on how to tackle the economic crisis.
Mortgage tax relief
Balkenende and finance minister Bos are at loggerheads over the prime minsiter’s comments on Friday that mortgage tax relief could be sacrificed, the paper says.
Balkenende said later that the tax break for home-owners would not be affected – in line with the CDA’s election pledge. But Bos says a cut in mortgage tax relief cannot be ruled out.
On Friday it emerged that a group of senior civil servants is drawing up a list of measures that the government could take to stop the budget deficit going over 2%. These include increasing the state pension age to 67, scrapping mortgage tax relief and reforming the system for paying for long-term health care (AWBZ).
Union leaders have already said a rise in the pension age is ‘out of the question’.
Slow reactions
Meanwhile, the chairman of the government’s SER advisory body said during a debate on Sunday that the government is reacting too slowly to the economic downturn.
Unless the government takes steps over the next few weeks, the recession will get deeper unnecessarily, Alexander Rinnooy Kan was quoted as saying in the Volkskrant.
‘Employers and unions are ready to get to work but are waiting for the cabinet,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘A few months ago, the Netherlands was streets ahead of other European countries but we have almost lost that lead.’
The Financieele Dagblad says that ministers are considering cutting value-added tax (btw) on building maintenance from 19% to 6% to boost the construction sector.

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