The government published a holding budget on Tuesday, ahead of the November general election. While the Dutch papers managed to fill pages with photos of hats and princess Alexia, the editorials are very much divided in their approach.
The Volkskrant called the new budget “policy poor” and “a pool of stagnant water” in its editorial. There is faint praise for the budget’s “readability”, a “breath of fresh air” compared to last year’s omni-shambles of a document, when rocketing energy prices produced “a labyrinth of incomprehensible spending and income changes”.
It couldn’t have been otherwise, the paper said, because a caretaker government does not rule beyond the grave. It’s either that, or a deep rift between coalition parties over future policies: “There is nothing left of the solidarity among the parties,” the paper said.
The NRC’s take is a different one. It sees the budget as a “totem for a new era”, the product of a fundamentally different point of view which instead of “taking the axe, or even the cheese slicer” to spending is putting society first.
“Financial security”, not the precarious state of government finances is the main concern,” the paper writes, referring to the €2 billion set aside to boost spending power and living standards for the lowest incomes, one of the few new elements in the budget.
The Financieele Dagblad hones in on caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte’s warning not to use businesses “as cash machines” to finance spending power plans, a reference to future wranglings over tax rises for companies, “particularly favoured by parties on the left”.
Strong businesses are not a given, the outgoing PM said, implying that too frequent trips to the cash machine would be “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs”.
The “present” of €2 billion to help people in the lowest income groups, is “understandable” the Telegraaf says in its editorial, but it’s the people in the higher income brackets who will be footing the bill.
That is not fair on the “hard-working middle incomes”, the paper said. “Ways need to be found to protect them and parliament’s intention to scrap the projected tax on petrol would be a good first step,” the Telegraaf concludes.
The AD detects a mood of “despondency and mistrust” among voters. Where’s the money for all the “grandiose” spending plans touted by party leaders ahead of the elections going to come from when the departing government has left “unfinished business and not enough money”? it wonders.
The AD, too, warns of a deepening mistrust in politicians, which “a cabinet named Omtzigt I, Yesilgöz I or Timmermans I” will have a difficult job to tackle.
Trouw said that what with parties in “campaign mode” and sniffing out coalition partners, the budget is anything but written in stone, as the resistance by the coalition member VVD, and other right-wing parties to the petrol tax has shown.
“That goes right against the environmental goals of the caretaker government but apparently that is all water under the bridge for the VVD,” Trouw writes.
Parties jostle for position in pre-election budget debate
Budget is a “stagnant pool” or “new era”. What the papers say
€2 billion to fight poverty, paid for by higher taxes and duty
Poverty and politics: the state of the Dutch nation in surveys
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