Coalition talks on cuts: ‘Development aid for the chop’

The Dutch development aid budget is set to be cut by €1bn a year as part of a package of measures to reduce government spending in 2013, the Telegraaf and Volkskrant report on Friday.

The minority coalition and its alliance partner, the anti-immigration PVV, on Thursday restarted talks on austerity measures to take the Dutch budget deficit below 3%. Sources in The Hague told both papers cuts in aid spending have now been agreed. This was a key demand of the PVV.
A €1bn cut a year would slice over 20% off the aid budget of some €4.6bn a year, and take the Netherlands well below the United Nations norm of 0.7% of gross domestic product.
Christian Democrats
The Telegraaf says such a move would be very difficult for Christian Democrats on the left of the party to accept. Their support will be crucial in winning acceptance for a deal because the coalition no longer has a majority in parliament.
According to the Volkskrant, an across-the-board pay and benefits freeze and limits to the tax break on mortgages are also on the table. The paper claims the negotiators are looking to find savings and new money totalling €14bn.
In addition, the coalition is looking at increasing the own-risk element in healthcare insurance, introducing charges for some treatment and making companies with over 250 workers responsible for unemployment benefit if they sack staff.
The talks were halted on Wednesday when it appeared PVV leader Geert Wilders was about to pull out. However, on Thursday morning the three parties said there was ‘sufficient perspective’ to continue the negotiations, which are now in their fourth week.
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