Prime minister Mark Rutte told MPs on Thursday he understood why the cabinet scored just 5.3 out of 10 in a poll on its performance.
Speaking on the second day of debate on the government’s 2017 spending plans, Rutte said that while the economy is recovering, people have not yet noticed that the crisis is over and they have more to spend.
PVV leader Geert Wilders said the low score is justified because Rutte has no idea what is going on in society at large. ‘You live in a parallel society,’ Wilders said. People are not concerned about a tiny rise in spending power but about safety, immigration and Islam, he said.
Rutte accused Wilders of focusing on pessimism. ‘The silent majority in this country want progress and are turned off by pessimism and negativity. They achieve nothing,’ the prime minister responded.
Christian Democrat leader Sybrand Buma and Alexander Pechtold of the D66 liberals said Rutte himself is to blame for the pessimism.
‘Credibility begins with the words you use,’ Pechtold said, referring to Rutte’s pledge before the 2012 election to dive everyone €1,000 more to spend and that no more money would go to Greece.
The debate which continues into Thursday evening, is widely seen as the kick-off of the general election campaign. The Netherlands will elect a new parliament in March 2017.