The government’s plans to generate a further €4.5bn through spending cuts and tax increases are without vision and ‘cobbled-together’, opposition MPs say.
The new round of cuts has been forced by economic forecasts which show the Dutch budget deficit will exceed eurozone limits this year and in 2014. But the government needs the help of opposition parties to ensure reforms are approved in parliament.
‘It is a list without vision,’ Alexander Pechtold, leader of the D66 Liberals, is quoted as saying. CDA leader Sybrand Buma said the government is wrong to increase taxes and ChristenUnie’s Arie Slob described the leaked plans as ‘crumbs’ and ‘cobbled-together lists’.
After the new figures, put together by the government’s CPB forecasting agency, were published on Thursday, prime minister Mark Rutte said ministers would look for broad political support for reforms.
Rutte said he wanted to reach agreement on policy with other parties in both houses of parliament as well as the unions and employers’ organisations.
The Netherlands is going through a difficult phase, the prime minister said. ‘We have to work to recover employment levels, with broad support,’ Rutte said. ‘We have to ensure the jobs motor starts working again by encouraging exports and helping consumer confidence to recover.’
Healthcare unions have already said they will not cooperate with a pay freeze. Pay levels are up to unions and employers and agreed in national pay deals, a spokesman for NU’91 said, adding that ‘we are not a charity.’
The measures the government is expected to announce include:
- Income and corporate tax increases
- A pay freeze for healthcare staff and semi-public sector
- No extra ministerial spending next year
- €500m investment in infrastructure to boost construction industry
- Extra money to moderate spending power impact on lowest incomes
- Scrapping tax and premium cuts for industry, to save €640m
- Less cash for local government
The bare bones of the package must be submitted to Brussels by May 1. Ministers need the agreement of other parties to press ahead with the plans because the government does not control the upper house of parliament.
The government was earlier forced to reach a deal on housing reform with D66 and the two minor orthodox Christian parties to ensure majority support in the senate.
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