New Dutch coalition pledges to spend big on sweeping reforms | Business


THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – Leaders of four political parties poised to join forces in the next Dutch ruling coalition on Wednesday pledged to tackle thorny issues such as climate change and housing shortages and to strengthen education and a health system that has been stretched almost to the point of breaking by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They also pledged to work to regain public confidence in government and politics which has been eroded by scandals, polarization, frustration in parts of society over the pandemic measures and over the past nine years. months it took for the parties to reach the coalition agreement after a month of March. 17 elections.

Acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who is now due to start a fourth term early next year, said the coalition would seek to work with “society and with our political colleagues” in parliament to implement reforms.

The plans that include tax cuts, nearly free child care for working parents, a return of scholarships for higher education students, labor market reforms and a plan to build around 100,000 new homes each year will cost billions in this country long known for its frugality.

The policies were outlined in a 47-page document titled “Caring for One another, Looking to the Future”.

One of its main objectives is to fight the climate crisis and polluting emissions, in particular the ambition to reduce carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030 in order to become climate neutral by 2050.

As part of climate policy, the coalition announced that it would set up a climate and energy transition fund of 35 billion euros ($ 39 billion) for the coming decade, appoint a minister of climate and energy and would implement measures for the construction of two new nuclear power plants as well as to stimulate the production of renewable energy.

Climate group Greenpeace welcomed parts of the plan, but said more was needed, including concrete steps to reduce carbon emissions. He said he was “disappointed to see the focus on nuclear power”, but expressed skepticism about the nuclear plan coming to fruition.

Coalition parties also pledged to invest in all levels of the education system, tackle inequalities and intolerance in society, and tackle organized crime amid fears about the growing power of drug gangs. . The problem was highlighted during the summer with the murder of famous campaign journalist Peter R. De Vries on a street in Amsterdam.

While parties pledged to invest in higher wages for healthcare workers, opposition parties criticized them for what they called long-term healthcare budget cuts.

On foreign policy, the coalition said it would work for a “more decisive, economically stronger, greener and more secure” European Union with more transparent decision-making. He also wants to promote international cooperation, strengthen the transatlantic alliance and fight against international espionage.

The document marked the beginning of the end of a long process to form a new government.

Rutte is expected to lead a coalition made up of his conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, as well as the pro-European D66, the center-right Christian Democrat Appeal and the centrist Christian Union. Together, they have a slim majority in the lower house of the Dutch parliament, which has 150 seats, but are in the minority in the upper house.

Rutte, 54, has already led three coalitions and is set to become the oldest leader in the Netherlands despite barely surviving a vote of no confidence in parliament in April.

His fourth cabinet will be made up of the same parties as his third, which ended his term in early January when all ministers resigned to take political responsibility for a scandal involving the country’s tax department falsely branding thousands of parents as fraudsters. claiming family allowances.

Rutte is now expected to be appointed to oversee the allocation of Cabinet portfolios. This process will likely last until early next year, when the new government can be officially installed.

The presentation of the deal came just under nine months after the general election in March, making coalition talks the longest in Dutch history. But they were still well below the record set in neighboring Belgium. In December 2011, Belgium concocted a government after 541 days of negotiations.

Johan Remkes, one of the officials who led the talks, said the process needed to be looked at.

“The period leading up to the substantive negotiations has been excessively long,” he said. “Once the dust settles, it requires a solid assessment.”

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