Dijsselbloem In Discussion With Opposition
Following the budget discussions in the House of last week, Minister Dijsselbloem is talking this week with opposition parties to exchange some of the government plans with alternatives proposed by them.
Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has the difficult task to negotiate with the opposition. This was the outcome of the budget discussions of last week. Four of the five constructive opposition parties came up with alternative budgets. Among those alternatives were, according to the coalition partners and the government, enough interesting proposals to start a negotiation about exchanging some of those alternatives with the official Dutch National Budget, as proposed by the government on budget day.
Constructive opposition parties
The constructive opposition parties are the parties that are willing to negotiate with the government about the budget for 2014. In the House, PvdA and VVD have a majority. In the Senate they only have 30 seats while 38 votes are necessary to get a law through the Senate.
The parties CDA (11 seats Senate), D66 ( 5 seats), GroenLinks (5 seats), ChristenUnie (2 seats) and SGP (1 seat), could help the coalition partners to a majority.
The driving force of the negotiations is that none of the constructive opposition parties want new elections. Dijsselbloem knows this of course also and tries to find a way now to get on some of the important issues a majority in the Senate.
This is not an easy job because the constructive parties and the coalition partners have different ideas about many issues. GroenLinks is a green party with green ideas. ChristenUnie is especially interested in the family as the building block of the society. D66 sees general reforms as the solution of the economic crisis, VVD is especially in favor of a small central government and more input of the citizens by themselves. And so every party has his own point of view about all the subjects.
Basically there are four options. CDA cooperates with the government, D66 together with GroenLinks, D66 with ChristenUnie and SGP and the last option GroenLinks with ChristenUnie and SGP.
Although one would think that some of these combinations are impossible, the reality shows that it is actually really possible. A good example is the Housing Agreement. Minister Stef Blok could make an agreement with D66, ChristenUnie and SGP and found so a majority in the Senate for that agreement.
Outcome first two negotiation days
On Monday Dijsselbloem organized a meeting where he pointed out the general plan for this negotiations. The constructive parties were present as well as the PvdD and 50Plus.
On Tuesday the government send a letter with 30 negotiable options to the discussion partners of Monday. PvdD decided not to join the negotiations on Tuesday evening.
The ‘menu’ of Dijsselbloem comprises of mainly four groups:
- adjustment of the plans of the government and hence the costs
- spending more money on some issues
- spending less on some issues
- raise less tax on some issues
Things which are put on the table now are, for instance, some reduction of tax increases and extra money for education. The money to make this possible would come from issues which are bad for the environment like the flying tax, higher tax for buying of a car and an extra tax on potable water.
The government goes out from the non-negotiable 6 billion cuts, so for every change the money involved has to be covered by other changes.
Constructive parties are disappointed
After the discussion on Tuesday evening the general idea of the opposition parties was that the items on the ‘menu’ were ‘absolutely insufficient’. All opposition parties agreed that the ‘menu’ was not acceptable.
However, this can also be seen as playing chess. In fact Dijsselbloem did exactly what the opposition parties asked for on Monday. They wanted the government to come up with detailed points for negotiation and numbers.
The ‘menu’ can be seen as a reaching hand to the opposition. Many of the wishes from the alternative plans can be found in the thirty proposals from the government.
Of the discussion partners, so far, only CDA and 50Plus have mentioned that they might stop with the negotiations.
Continuation on Wednesday
The minister of Finance will on Wednesday first have a personal meeting with each of the discussion partners. If the outcome of these one-on-one discussions is positive, there will be a joint meeting again on Wednesday evening.
According to Dijsselbloem it is very important that the discussion partners will find a solution. It is irresponsible and unacceptable if these discussions will not lead to a solution. In this bad global economical situation, he says, our country can’t afford to not being run as smoothly as possible. “It is the responsibility of politicians to avoid causing harm to the economy. This is not only in the Netherlands but also counts for countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal. Look what is happening in the US.”