The caretaker cabinet will work to make sure there is a ‘sensible budget’ for next year and that low-income households are properly supported, caretaker prime minister told reporters after Friday’s cabinet meeting.
Ministers met for the first time on Friday since the summer recess to discuss strategies for the September budget. The government’s spending plans for the coming year will be presented as usual on the third Tuesday in September, despite the collapse of the coalition at the beginning of July.
In particular, ministers must decide what to do about Thursday’s warning by the CPB that more people will end up living beneath the poverty line unless the government takes action.
Although some ministers have hinted that the cabinet should take steps to boost spending power for the lowest incomes, finance minister Sigrid Kaag has said that the budget deficit is “heading in the wrong direction” and that “the budgetary limits have been reached.”
Rutte said that no options have been ruled out for making sure that low-income families are not hit harder than others. “There are many options” to deal with the situation, he said. “All are on the table and all have disadvantages.”
Tax hikes or cuts, the ceiling on energy bills which expires at the end of this year and increasing child benefits are all among the possibilities, Rutte said. The aim, he said, is to ensure that the gap between those on high incomes and low incomes does not increase.
In addition, earlier this week, the national statistics agency CBS said the Netherlands had dipped into a slight recession in the first six months of the year.
However, this “technical recession” is “not a disaster,” Rutte told reporters. At the same time, he stressed, it is important to maintain the Netherlands’ competitive edge.
Parliament itself is in recess until September 4. When MPs return, they will vote on which issues should be declared controversial, which means no further action will be taken until there is a new government. That vote will take place on September 12, just a week before the budget presentation.
Immigration and asylum and climate measures are likely to be on the list of subjects that will not be discussed until a new coalition has been put together, which could take months after the November vote.
However, issues such as the childcare benefit scandal, the Groningen gas issue, Ukraine and shoring up spending power are issues that cannot wait, Rutte told reporters.
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