There is little criticism of the government’s 2021 spending plans in the morning papers, with most approving of the decision to keep on spending to head off the impact of coronavirus. With one eye on next year’s elections, they say, there is little else ministers can do.
The Financieele Dagblad headlines its editorial ‘investing is good, more investing is better’, and highlights the ‘sober’ position the government’s finances are now in, given the Netherlands had a budget surplus of €14bn at the end of last year.
‘But no-one is talking about making cuts and putting up taxes, now that coronavirus has plunged the Netherlands into an economic crisis of unheard off proportions,’ the paper says.
The government’s decision to boost spending to drive economic growth is supported by several key advisors, including the CPB and the president of the Dutch central bank, the paper points out.
However, the new €20bn investment fund looks pretty stingy when compared with Germany (€130bn) and France (€100bn), the paper says. ‘This crisis, the worst in almost 100 years, may well demand more ambition from The Hague.’
Let us be clear about this,’ the paper says. ‘Hankering after Dutch thriftiness, can cost the country dear.’
‘We are really going to feel the crisis,’ the Telegraaf warns on its front page, coupled with a quote from king Willem-Alexander about how strong the country is.
And in an editorial, the paper says the government’s strategy for coping with the financial impact of coronavirus is a ‘sensible’ one.
The Netherlands can permit itself to increase the national debt to over 60% of GDP, the paper said, pointing to the situation in Italy, Greece and ‘even Belgium’.
This sensible strategy will allow the Netherlands to absorb the worst of the blows, the paper said. ‘It underlines once again that our country should not be bothered by EU countries that in recent years have been guilty of cowardly choices and financial mismanagement,’ the paper said. ‘Solidarity is not a one-way street.
The Volkskrant’s headline reads ‘spending money without a care, despite speech concerns’, illustrated by a photo of prime minister Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge smiling at each other across the Grote Kerk floor.
Referring to the sunshine on this ‘remarkable budget day’, the paper says in its editorial that ‘rising expectations and falling economic prospects form a flammable combination.’
The FNV is demanding a 5% pay rise and the ‘healthcare heroes’ also want more money, the paper says. ‘And why not, you may ask, given that money appears to grow on trees’.
‘But we do not know what the future will bring and it is better to keep our financial buffers. The cabinet must manage expectations and that is going to be a real challenge in an election year.’
Trouw says the government is ‘notably positive’ in both the king’s speech and in the 2021 budget.
The paper carries an interview with prime minister Mark Rutte in which he says he is not worried about the criticism of his crisis strategy, partly because public confidence in politicians is at a high.
‘The cabinet and opposition have shown that we can tackle this crisis together,’ he said. ‘Of course there is criticism, and demonstrations. They are part of democracy. ‘
The AD focuses on the cabinet’s decision to ‘let the money roll’. ‘This cabinet is seizing its last opportunity to prove itself,’ the paper says, in a reference to next March’s general election.
‘Despite the coronavirus crisis, Rutte’s third cabinet is trying to complete its mission, which is evidence that the political midfield still has a role.’
‘At the moment this cabinet can smother criticism by spending,’ the paper said. ‘And even including the cost of the third support package, the national debt will remain among the lowest in Europe.’
‘But the cabinet is gambling that there will not be a second coronavirus wave’ which will severely impact on both economic growth and unemployment, the paper said. ‘And with a general election ahead of us, everyone is hoping that a more gloomy economic forecast will not be necessary’