Dutch left unites behind alternative government agreement

Photo: Joep Poulssen

The three main left-wing Dutch opposition parties have drawn up their own ‘alternative’ coalition agreement which they say will involve real investment in Dutch society rather than big business.

Titled People above Multinationals, the agreement is based on higher taxes for banks, big businesses and high earners. The parties would spend €10bn more than the present government and hike taxes by the same amount to pay for the extra outgoings.

The three parties suggest scrapping a number of measures the new government plans to take including the rise in the lower VAT tariff, from 6% to 9 %, the lower tax on profits, lower dividend tax and lower income tax.

Instead they would ensure higher pay for teachers, nurses and police, scrap the own-risk element in health insurance, bring in a tax on millionaires and early retirement for people in physically taxing professions and impose a carbon tax on industry.

The document makes no mention of an alternative policy on immigration, which was one of the stumbling blocks for the inclusion of GroenLinks in the present coalition. Nor does it mention the amnesty for child refugees – which the new government has no plans to change.

According to the Volkskrant  ‘the shrinkage of the Dutch political left’ has forced GroenLinks, Labour and SP to work together after years of mutual distrust. At present the three left-wing opposition parties together account for only 37 seats.

This is not to say that the parties agree on all fronts. The plans need to be elaborated on further, according to Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher. ‘For instance, the SP wants to lower the pension age. We want to help people on lower incomes to retire earlier,’ he told the paper.

The party leaders profess to feeling slightly surprised at their own new-found harmony. ‘We are very circumspect with each other. But all three of us believe in offering an attractive bright alternative, instead of making life difficult for each other,’ Asscher told the Volkskrant.