Dutch opposition demands quicker action to tackle poverty
Dutch opposition parties asked the cabinet to tackle poverty rates in the country more urgently during a Thursday parliamentary debate, demanding a ‘robust, social package’ before the summer.
The parliamentary debate covered the preliminary annual budget (‘Voorjaarsnota’), which was presented in April. After years of extensive public spending triggered by the pandemic and the energy crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Dutch government was urged by the Council of State, an advisory body, to reel in its fiscal policy as it had gotten “too close to the guardrails.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people in the Netherlands live in poverty, the queues at the food bank are increasing. That’s when you’re failing as a cabinet,” said SP (EU Left) leader Lilian Marijnissen.
“A decent income for all should be the most important task,” Labour Party (S&D) leader Attje Kuiken added.
Without the support of the left aisle, the cabinet would need to rely on the BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB) – an up-and-coming agrarian interest party which won big during the regional elections in March – to push through its budget plan.
However, BBB leader Caroline van der Plas chimed in with the left’s criticism.
“In our […] country, almost a million people live in poverty. Or at least, that’s where we’re heading,” she said, calling for “the broad shoulders [to] bear the heaviest burdens”.
Cabinet promises progress in August
The cabinet maintained that a later deadline to devise plans to tackle poverty would suffice, as the annual budget presentation falls on 19 September, also called “Prinsjesdag”.
“The government really wants to prevent more people from falling into poverty. But we weigh everything, and we do that in August,” Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag (D66/Renew) stated.
“I cannot anticipate now and put together a package in the coming weeks. Haste would make it careless,” she added.
Despite the relative resilience of the Dutch economy regarding the recent crises, the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) warned in its Central Economic Plan back in March that poverty in the country was on the rise, with projections predicting it would affect 5.8% of the population in 2024 – up from 4.7% this year.
(Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com)