Austerity arrives to The Netherlands

Dutch government


Only sworn in this November 5, the Dutch government already has problems. “A wounded VVD staggers towards the steps,” headlines Dutch daily De Volkskrant, in reference to the steps of the Dutch royal palace of the Huis Ten Bosch. It's here where the traditional photograph of VVD (centre-right) prime minister Mark Rutte with his newly-appointed cabinet, a coalition with the PvdA (Labour) of Diederik Samsom (who is not a cabinet member), is to be taken on Monday.

There are tensions between the coalition partners over such issues as contributions to national health care, a measure that part of the VVD considers too “socialist” and which “threatens the stability of the government before it is even sworn in,” the paper says. It also notes that the bill, which aims to make contributions proportional to the revenue of the insured, is “in its current form, in any case, doomed to failure in the upper chamber” (the Senate) in which the government does not have a majority.

“The excitement over contributions is only a precursor of other misfortunes that will, undoubtedly, also affect the PvdA,” De Volksrant forecasts in a leader article referring to “painful but inevitable measures”. Mark Rutte and Diederik Samsom “acted according to the economic circumstances,” which forced the Netherlands to slash 15 billion from its budget.

Another Amsterdam daily, Trouw, seems to come to the coalition's defence. It notes that the Dutch all have a capacity to adapt: “The discord and lack of transparency over the contributions has led to one positive outcome. Everybody is now aware that health requires a lot of money, and will require even more […] The Netherlands are closing an era in which prosperity was obvious; today this is less true. No one can expect the State to maintain it. It is up to us to do so. We must be creative […] Being able to change and to find new paths will determine our future prosperity. The new government seems to be aware of this and every Dutch person must be aware of it also.”


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