Budget: indecision won’t win votes – papers (new)

Most of the Dutch newpapers on Wednesday are scathing about the cabinet’s indecision on long term measures to get the government’s finances back on track and are convinced that local elections next year and the general election in 2011 play a role.

The Financieele Dagblad says the ‘shadow of the elections’ hung over Tuesday’s budget plans. It points out that the turnaround from a 1% budget surplus to a 6% shortfall an a national debt which is growing by €36.5bn a year makes ‘painful political choices inevitable’.
But half a year after announcing an increase in the pension age from 65 to 67 and with the actual implementation of this measure far from certain, the cabinet is postponing other cost-cutting decisions.
Countless studies are to come up with policy change proposals after the local elections in March next year. While these could find their way into next year’s budget announcement ‘the chance is bigger’ that any real perspective will have to wait until after the general election in May 2011, says the FD.
Understandable but risky
The government’s strategy is ‘understandable but not without risk’ the paper says. The political landscape in the Netherlands makes it more or less impossible to expect a coalition with a large stable majority. ‘It is uncertain whether the next cabinet will be able to find sufficient basis for the necessary cutbacks and reorganisation.’
The coalition parties Christian Democrats and Labour believe they can win back voters by positioning themselves as ‘dependable crisis managers’ but to achieve this they will have to offer more perspective for a long term recovery than they have with yesterday’s budget, the FD concludes.
Coherent message
The Volkskrant meanwhile says the 30th and ‘perhaps the last’ queen’s speech by Beatrix yesterday was one of her better ones with a ‘coherent’ message. She made it clear that it would not be right to push the consequences of the economic crisis onto the next generation.
Like the FD, the Volkskrant agrees that the cabinet’s short term policy of stimulating the economy is sensible but it asks what the government has done and is doing to safeguard the future financial stability of the country. Proposals to be worked out by civil servants and presented in June next year will be ‘far too late’ the paper says.
‘If the coalition thinks that it can survive the local elections in March by putting off painful decisions, it is deceiving itself,’ concludes the Volkskrant in its editorial under the headline Wanted: leadership.
Internal conflicts
The Telegraaf says the cabinet’s plan to come with ideas to cut government spending by 20% within the next year is ‘vague’ and ‘unacceptable’.
‘A government is there to govern and make choices. And if internal conflicts make those choices impossible, it is time to go and ask the voters to have their say at the polling stations.’
Trouw echoes the Telegraaf’s hint at a cabinet split. ‘It would seem as if this delay [in deciding where to make cuts] is the main reason for the alliance between Labour and the Christian Democrats, the paper says.
Bos is counting on a broad debate about the options to create a new order in terms of government, market and society, the paper says. ‘That is a debate which has to happen… but the political leaders in this cabinet will have to steer that debate and not be afraid to take action.’
Meanwhile, free newspaper De Pers devotes more time to the new thriller by Dan Brown on its front page than the budget.
Under a headline which loosely translates as ‘well, boys, that is sort of it,’ the paper says ministers could have taken steps to solve major problems long ago.
‘There is a slim chance the cabinet will take major decisions, but instead it will probably try to prolong its existence.’

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