The government will begin its planned major reform process and start cutting spending before the 2011 general election, Pieter van Geel, parliamentary leader of the governing Christian Democrats, is quoted as saying on Wednesday.
Van Geel was speaking during the general debate which traditionally takes place the day after the government presents its annual spending plans.
On Tuesday, the government said it was seeing off cuts next year to give the economy time to recover. But it expects to have to slash spending by up to 20% from 2011. Next year, ministers want to stimulate broad debate at all levels of society to determine what reforms to bring in and where the axe should fall.
The opposition parties have criticised the government for delaying difficult decisions. The Netherlands is due to have a general election in 2011.
‘The CDA will not accept that everything is being left up to the next government,’ Van Geel was quoted as saying by the NRC. Nothing is sacred in the search for ways of reducing the budget deficit, even changes to mortgage tax relief, he said.
And, he said, he expects a ‘coherent report’ on the new strategy recommendations to be completed in six months. The cabinet is setting up 20 commissions to scrutinise all areas of government spending and draw up potential reforms.
The opposition attacks continued during Wednesday’s debate. Mark Rutte, leader of the Liberal party VVD said Netherlands is without government. The cabinet must show daring and determination, he said. Instead it has come up with ‘non-measures’. He called for tax cuts and a smaller government apparatus.
The three government parties – the CDA, Labour and orthodox Christian ChristenUnie – have decided not to make any demands on the government to change aspects of next year’s spending plans, the Telegraaf reported on Wednesday.
During the post budget debate, all parties traditionally come up with their own suggestions to amend the budget – usually resulting in a little extra money on the table.
But this year the economic crisis is so serious that the cabinet needs full support and there is no cash for extra policy initiatives, the ruling party leaders said.
Ministers will reply to the criticism on Thursday.
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