A target of 50,000 immigrants per year, a higher minimum wage and measures to stimulate housebuilding are among the plans set out by Pieter Omtzigt in his party’s manifesto for the November 22 election.
Nieuw Sociaal Contract (NSC), founded by Omtzigt nine weeks ago as a vehicle for his ideas to reform the state and tackle the cost of living crisis, presented its manifesto on Tuesday, the last of the major parties to do so.
The centrist party is currently polling at around 17%, level with the right-wing Liberal VVD and marginally ahead of the left-wing alliance of Labour (PvdA) and GroenLinks.
Omtzigt said administrative reform, including the creation of a constitutional court, was the first priority of his programme, titled Tijd voor Herstel (“Time for Renewal”), followed by securing a basic standard of living for all citizens.
But his plans were also cautious on spending. Omtzigt said he would increase the minimum wage but declined to give a specific figure, adding: “We need to bear in mind that we are already in the top three for the highest minumum wages in Europe.”
PvdA-GroenLinks has pledged to increase the minimum wage to €16 an hour, while the ChristenUnie want to raise it to €18.
No free childcare
Omtzigt also said he would cancel the current cabinet’s plans for universal free childcare, which was due to be implemented in 2027.
“We already have shortages in childcare. If you make childcare free, you’re going to make the problem worse in the short term before it gets better,” he explained.
The policy is notable because Omtzigt was instrumental in exposing the devastating impact on families of the tax office’s zero-tolerance approach to childcare subsidies. Working families were ordered to pay back tens of thousands of euros if they were assumed to be defrauding the system because they made minor errors in their paperwork, such as failing to fill in a form correctly.
On migration, NSC wants to set a limit of 50,000 migrants a year, including asylum seekers, labour migrants, students and family reunions. “It’s a target figure, because a hard ceiling is often impossible to realise,” Omtzigt said.
Housing costs are another area where Omtzigt wants to intervene by removing restrictions on construction to make it “easier to build”, while setting limits on rent increases to keep living costs affordable.
NSC also wants to scrap the current law limiting nitrogen pollution – a major constraint on construction – and the buyout programme for major agricultural polluters, one of the current government’s key tools for meeting European emissions targets.
Omtzigt plans to shrink the livestock farming sector gradually through measures such as banning the construction of large-scale cattle sheds.
Other plans include reducing bureaucracy in healthcare, providing free postnatal care for new parents, banning online gambling and scrapping plans for a “pay as you go” vehicle tax – an idea that has been floating around since the end of the last century.
NSC also wants the king to pay tax and would make Liberation Day on May 5 a public holiday.
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