Budget debate overshadowed by Covid criticism
The first day of the parliamentary debate on the national budget was interrupted and quickly overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis. The health authorities announced a massive increase in coronavirus infections in the country - to such an extent that Germany and Belgium implemented travel warnings for Noord- and Zuid-Holland, prompting fierce criticism from the opposition parties on how the government is handling this crisis.
A big point of criticism, from both coalition and opposition parties, was the testing capacity shortage in the Netherlands, NU.nl reports. "The number of infections is rising sharply, but not enough testing can be done. Dangerous," SP leader Lilian Marijnissen said. If some 1,500 people tested positive for the coronavirus on one day, how many infected people are still waiting for an appointment.
"We have to wait a long time for test results," D66 leader Rob Jetten said. "A vaccine is not yet in sight, and if it does come, it will be a long time before it can be produced on a large scale."
PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher recalled a period in summer recess when there were about 200 infections per week. "In the meantime, many announcements were made by the cabinet. It is always up to someone else. The young people who are assholes," the PvdA leader said. The PvdA called parliament back from recess when infections stood at 200 per week. "It was said: that must be a little opposition issue. No! We have a huge problem if we can't get the virus under control."
When the debate did focus on the government's plans for 2021, parties in both the opposition and coalition demanded more major changes, according to the newspaper. But with the parliamentary elections around the corner - scheduled for March next year - the cabinet doesn't intend to implement new plans.
A topic that frequently came up was the labor market. The coronavirus crisis made clear that employees with a temporary or flexible contract and self-employed persons are most vulnerable on the labor market - they take the first and hardest blows when the economy turns negative. "This underlines all the more that the labor market must be fairer," CDA parliamentarian MP Pieter Heerma said. In the short term, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver and Asscher (PvdA) want a form of job guarantee, so that people in this crisis can at least count on an income.
Another topic was the landlord levy. The cabinet already announced that this levy - generally assumed to hamper the construction of new homes and the process to make existing ones more sustainable - would be gradually phased out. Klaver (GroenLinks) and Heerma (CDA), among others, demanded that this be done more quickly. "We can now speak of a national housing crisis," Heerma said. Asscher (PvdA) and Marijnissen (SP) pointed out that they have been raising concerns about the housing crisis for years.