Senior Christian Democratic party members on Friday warned the government it will damage the reputation of the Netherlands abroad if rumours of a planned €1bn cut in the development aid budget are true, Nos television reports.
The letter, signed by former prime minister Ruud Lubbers, three former CDA foreign ministers and two aid ministers, says a large part of the Netherlands’ strong international position is due to to its image as an open and involved country.
‘Our contribution to development aid has made a strong contribution to the positive image of the Netherlands in developing countries,’ the letter states.
Earlier on Friday, the Volkskrant and Telegraaf reported spending on aid is to be slashed as part of a package of measures to reduce government spending in 2013.
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. The Netherlands used to spend 0.8% of GDP on development aid but that was reduced by the current coalition.
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.
Last week, Microsoft founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates launched his own attempt to persuade the Netherlands not to cut its development aid budget, with interviews and columns in most Dutch papers.
Cutting aid to less than 0.7% of GDP can have enormous repercussions on the willingness of other countries to contribute, Gates warned in an interview with the Volkskrant.
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