Many households who are worried about money due to rising energy prices and rising inflation should not count on extra help this year. New plans to support purchasing power are so difficult to implement that it is better to wait until 2023, the government says.
Money or reluctance is not the problem, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) during the debate on the spring memorandum on Tuesday. It is simply ‘too great a risk’ for the already heavily burdened implementation organizations. Technique. Lines. Too few people.
The opposition does not believe that explanation. A large number of parties say that anything is possible. They blame political reasons for inaction and threaten to torpedo the new budget if the government does not take action anyway.
“Shameless,” GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver called the government’s response. PVV leader Geert Wilders spoke of “a middle finger” to the Dutch people. “Next year is simply too late,” said Attje Kuiken (PvdA).
Can or will not?
The house has been calling for extra support for several weeks now that financial needs continue to rise among many families as a result of rising prices. The Central Planning Bureau (CPB) estimated in June that if the policy remains unchanged, up to 1.2 million households could run into trouble next year. Nibud fears that even 2.5 million households, not only low-income but also middle-income, will get into financial difficulties due to high energy prices.
The government has always been skeptical. Not much would be possible, on top of the six billion euros already allocated to households in the autumn and spring. When the House of Representatives first debated the spring memorandum in mid-June, the pressure to do something grew. The debate was subsequently stopped, the government went in search of a solution, the coalition began talks with the opposition behind the scenes, and calculations and discussions took place.
The result of that search: nothing is possible. An increase in the minimum wage, a reduction in tuition fees, an adjustment of allowances or a freezing of the rent: all these things could only be done next year. A temporary doubling or increase in health care, as proposed by Volt and PvdA and GroenLinks respectively in June, involves the risk of hundreds of thousands of cures. Another proposal from the debate on raising money by introducing a solidarity tax for companies that have made significant profits in recent months would also fail.
“If you look at all the things that were in front of you, you just find that it’s pretty disastrous in implementation,” Rutte summed up on Friday during his weekly press conference in Nieuwspoort. Think leader Farid Azarkan was even more concise in his critique during the follow-up to the spring memorandum debate: “In fact, it is: Rutte says no†
In fact, it is: Rutte says no
The opposition, from left to right, were dissatisfied with the Prime Minister’s explanation. “You threw a bucket of paper over the fence where all the opposition’s plans were shot,” said SP leader Lilian Marijnissen. “Why has there not been an active contribution?” Laurens Dassen (Volt) wanted to know. “Why was it not thought: how are these plans feasible?”
He even made a pass. If the government feared a repeat of the quota affair, then was it not an option not to demand something back and take the loss with it? It did not seem like a good idea to the Prime Minister: “Then you let go of all the principles under your legislation.”
After all, Rutte looked one way out. He hopes that the energy supplement paid by the government to the 800,000 households with the lowest incomes with 800 euros can already be raised by 500 euros. The municipalities are implementing this allowance and would be able to do so, as it turned out shortly before the debate.
The coalition was happy with that, but it was not the opposition. This is not insignificant, because the government at least needs part of the opposition – JA21, GroenLinks, PvdA or a number of smaller parties together – to guide the budget changes from the spring memorandum through the Senate next week.
The criticism: hundreds of thousands of Dutch people who are just above the subsistence level are still wrong. “What the government is saying is: it’s almost better to be on unemployment benefits than to work for the minimum wage,” said an annoyed Piano.
“There will be a wave of poverty that is unparalleled,” said Pieter Omtzigt. “What have we learned from the childcare benefit? If you can get people on time, they will not get into debt, they will not get to the debt collection agencies. Once they have been pushed over the edge, here in January and February we will have debates about hundreds of thousands of households that have to go through a debt restructuring. ”
A version of this article was also published in the newspaper on July 6, 2022