Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Aukje de Vries' Diary Day 66

It is dreadful weather, cold, windy and rainy. The gardener is coming today. Poor guys, who have to work outside on a day like this. They usually come a little after 8, I have to get up early. One of the two men who come I know, the other is new. I explain to them what I want to be done. They go ahead and I can go to my study.
Today the government is going to present its plan to deal with the economic crisis. Over the past days the criticism has grown about the government, talking and talking but not doing anything. For three weeks seven people have been discussing in seclusion the measures that need to be taken to deal with the recession. They are the Prime Minister, who in this case does not represent his party but plays the role of an impartial Head of Government, a Minister of each party represented in the government and the leaders of the three parliamentary sections represented in the government. The diagnosis of the situation is that the three parties have renegotiated the pact that they concluded two years ago when they came into power. The rumours are that all three parties are unwilling to give in on issues that are significant for them, such as tax deductions for the mortgage people have on their house (Christian Democrats). This is especially advantageous for people with high incomes and very expensive housing, because taxes are progressive. This tax deduction costs the public treasury a fortune. Another one is what is mockingly called the kitchen sink subsidy. This s a tax benefit for couples, when only one of the two is in paid employment. This is a major issue for the Christian Union, which likes mothers to stay at home with their kids. The third big issue is social security and more specifically the unemployment benefit and the long-term care insurance which are important for the Labour Party. It is rather late in the day when the Prime Minister finally makes public what the three parties have agreed. They have only drawn one daring conclusion: the age at which people are entitled to the state pension is to be raised from 65 to 67.
After the PM has officially presented the plan the negotiators have invited the social partners (employers and trade unions) to discuss the plan with them.
The trade union FNV has fiercely opposed raising the age for the state pension and they obtain the concession that they get half a year to work with the SER (the Social and Economic Council) to find an alternative with the same positive effects on the national budget. The leader of FNV (a woman) is triumphant: we have got the proposal off the table she says! That still remains to be seen.

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