The four parties trying to form a new Dutch government have reportedly agreed to freeze all spending plans because of concerns that the next cabinet will have to implement cuts.
The AD reported on Monday that the right-wing parties PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB would vote down any plans that committed the government to extra spending while the talks are ongoing.
Last week PVV health spokeswoman and co-negotiator Fleur Agema came under fire in parliament after the party blocked a motion to abolish the deductible charge, or “eigen risico”, for compulsory universal healthcare.
During the election campaign PVV leader Geert Wilders went on the attack over the measure, calling it a “scandal” that the left-wing alliance GroenLinks-PvdA only wanted to reduce the amount from €385 a year to €285.
The withdrawal of the PVV’s votes meant that abolition, which would have cost an estimated €3.6 billion a year, no longer has a majority in the lower house.
Pieter Omtzigt’s NSC party also put its plans to compensate students who had to take out loans to fund their studies over the last eight years, when grants were abolished on ice.
€17 billion cuts
Education spokeswoman Roseanna Hertzberger told MPs that civil servants “still had questions” about the details of the plan.
Before the election Omtzigt steered a motion through parliament to trim the 30% “expat ruling” that allows some foreign workers to receive a portion of their income tax free, specifically to free up €183 million to compensate student loans.
The question of balancing the books is becoming a fault line between the VVD and NSC, parties that advocate strict fiscal responsibility, and the PVV, which wants to keep public spending high by slashing funding in areas such as culture and international development.
Wilders tweeted at the weekend that the PVV wanted to avoid “painful mega savings” but also bring down taxes substantially.
But financial experts warned last autumn that the government will need to find €17 billion in spending cuts to offset the effect of higher interest rates and budget for the effects of an ageing population, climate change and global instability.
Wilders’s message on X, which said he would put “the Dutch first again”, also hinted strongly at the PVV’s priorities in the negotiations. “I hope we can manage it so that new elections are not necessary,” he signed off.
Wij gaan voor een rechts kabinet. Nederlanders weer op 1. Een forse lastenverlichting voor burgers en geen pijnlijke megabezuinigingen. Heel veel minder asielzoekers en dwang in de diepvries. Ik hoop dat het lukt zodat nieuwe verkiezingen niet nodig zijn. 👍
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) January 27, 2024
Wilders said “far fewer asylum seekers” should be allowed and “compulsion should go in the freezer” – a reference to the law passed in the Senate last week that gives the minister for asylum, Eric van der Burg, the power to overrule local councils that are unwilling to accommodate refugees.
The parties have backed a number of measures that have no impact on the budget or a minimal amount. Last week they agreed to commission a study into allowing personalised number plates in the Netherlands, earning them the nickname the “number plate coalition” in some media.
And they backed a motion by the ChristenUnie calling for €40 million on improving rail connections in Meppel, Drenthe, after the money was found through savings elsewhere.