Civil servants dominate ‘cuts committees’

Most of the 20 committees set up by the cabinet to overhaul government spending and indentify €35bn-worth of cuts are led by former or current senior civil servants, the Financieele Dagblad reports on Monday.

Ministers announced the setting up of the committees at the budget presentation two weeks ago. Opposition MPs were highly critical of the plan, saying the government was delaying taking important decisions.
Officials have been put in charge of policy areas which are new to them and political affiliations were not taken into account, the paper says. Dutch civil servants are not banned from being politically active.
Environment ministry senior civil servant Bernard ter Haar has been put in charge of looking at the housing market. And the director general of the economic affairs ministry Hans Wijlbrief has been charged with looking at security and counter terrorism measures, the paper says.
Civil servants from the finance ministry and prime minister’s office are in every committee to ensure continuity and cohesion, the paper says.
Among the outsiders brought in are Martin van Rijn, from the PGGM pension fund who will look at the functioning of the government apparatus. Anne Willem Kist, who used to work at the financial services authority AFM, has been put in charge of climate and energy.
Kist was forced to resign from the AFM after it emerged he had traded in Fortis shares when he knew, as bourse watchdog, that the financial services group was part of a consortium trying to buy ABN Amro. Last year, he chaired a commission calling for a drastic reduction in energy networks, the FD said.
The letter outlining the set up of the committees also states that spending on hospitals, doctors and nursing homes will have to be cut by €11bn if ministers keep to their original plan to slash spending by 20% across the board.

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