Shut that door!

The Dutch are leaving the door open to Bulgarian benefits fraudsters. The system needs to be changed, says Annemarie van Gaal

Say you’re house sitting for someone and you like to leave the kitchen door open. You leave money lying on the table, in full view. One night a band of robbers comes in and steals the money.

They come back every night, pick up the money and don’t even consider it theft: you keep leaving the door open after all. The money is there for the taking. You still don’t lock the kitchen door. Don’t you care because it’s not your money or your house? Not your responsibility?


The same is happening at the tax office. For over a year now, the tax people know that Bulgarian gangs are fraudulently claiming for health and rent benefits for people who don’t work or live here. The money, however, goes straight into their accounts. Now whole busloads of Bulgarians are coming to the Netherlands to see how far ajar the Dutch kitchen door is. At the moment the discussion focuses on whether or not junior minister Frans Weekers knew about the fraud but that is not really what this is about.

I don’t doubt that dozens of tax officials have known about this fraud for years and this is what we should be talking about. How can anyone go home come five o’clock and leave possible fraud and robbery for what they are? Is it too much to ask them to continue working until the kitchen door can be bolted?

Ditch benefits

The spotlight is now on the Bulgarians but for years many Dutch people fraudulently collected child benefits and for decades child benefits went to non-existent children in far-away countries. It’s simple really: where there are benefits, there will be fraud. I think we have let this happen. Benefits are seen as free money, there for the taking. Having a bit more doesn’t do any harm, surely.

This type of benefit is meant to support people on low incomes and this is a good thing. But why do it by way of benefits which feel like presents from the government? It causes some citizens to lose the sense that money must be earned by working hard or taking entrepreneurial risks. Ditch the benefits, including child benefits, and incorporate them into the amount of income tax people on low incomes are paying. In that way people will feel they have worked for the money and are responsible for it. And we can ditch the useless supervisors at the same time.

Annemarie van Gaal is an entrepreneur and head of AM Media. She is also a writer and television personality.

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation