Prime minister calls for unity, MPs are divided on budget plans

Despite Dutch MPs’ support for crisis measures to bail out the economy, it will be difficult to reach majority support for serious spending cuts and tax increases ahead of the general election on September 12, commentators said on Wednesday.

Prime minister Mark Rutte made a strong appeal to MPs on Tuesday to work together to help the Netherlands through the economic crisis. Yet although a large number of the 11 parties in parliament say they are willing to try to put together a 2013 budget, there are a multitude of divisions between them.
‘I have heard a lot of good intentions but nothing concrete,’ Stef Blok, who leads the VVD in parliament, said.

Above 3%

In addition, the left wing greens Groenlinks, the Socialists, Labour and Geert Wilders anti-immigration PVV say they do not believe in the need to meet Brussel’s budget deficit targets next year. Together, they form a majority in parliament.
The two Liberal parties VVD and D66, along with the Christian parties, do want to meet the 3% deadline and cut spending by €14bn. Next year’s budget plans are due to be submitted to Brussels on April 30, and finance minister Jan Kees de Jager has said he is determined to meet that target, despite the difficulties.
‘I am gloomy about the prospects of us reaching a deal,’ Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer said during Tuesday evening’s debate.
Labour leader Diederick Samsom has condemned the package of measures worked out over the past seven weeks between the minority coalition and the PVV as being ‘embarrassing short-term work’. MPs are due to debate those plans on Thursday.
Welfare plans
Meanwhile, a majority of MPs say the new work-for-welfare legislation currently being handled in parliament should be declared controversial. If the plans are put on hold, the government will have to find a further €1.8bn in savings.
The welfare reforms are part of a €18bn package of tax increases and cuts agreed when the coalition government came to power in October 2010. However, many of those measures have not yet been turned into new laws and are likely to be dropped.
In the Netherlands, once an election has been called, the cabinet becomes a caretaker administration and legislation deemed controversial by MPs is dropped. Restrictions on dual nationality and reforms to special education are also likely to be put on ice.

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