King's speech criticized for not being bold enough to tackle poverty
Political leaders and labor organisations in the Netherlands reacted to King Willem-Alexander's speech which presented the government's plans for the next year. Many voiced concerns about the Cabinet’s commitment to tackling poverty, calling for bolder actions and a reevaluation of funding allocations.
The King announced in his speech that the Cabinet will invest around two billion euros in purchasing-power measures. "Housing benefit will be increased to maintain the purchasing power of families on the lowest incomes in 2024. Child budget will be increased to combat child poverty. In addition, the Emergency Energy Fund will be extended to provide a safety net for people who can no longer pay their energy bills. Next year the employment tax credit will be increased to ensure that it pays more to work. And extra funds will be made available to tackle poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands," he stated in his speech.
In reaction to this announcement, PVV leader Geert Wilders said he finds 2 billion euros against poverty reduction "far too meager." He does not understand that 70 billion euros are allocated to climate and nitrogen policy funds and 7 billion euros to asylum and migration. "Then 2 billion euros against poverty is incredibly meager."
BBB leader Caroline van der Plas said in a first reaction to the King’s Speech that she considers the 2 billion euros that the caretaker Cabinet wants to allocate for poverty alleviation a "start.” However, she believes more money is needed.
D66 parliamentary group leader Jan Paternotte perceived the king's "modest" speech coming "at a time when politics should be anything but modest." Actions addressing the climate crisis, education, and the economy can no longer be postponed, Paternotte noted in an initial response."
Jesse Klaver from GroenLinks-PvdA said he hopes that a "social majority" in the Tweede Kamer can adjust the course of the Cabinet so that fewer people live in poverty next year. "Despite all the promises of the cabinet, more people will be living in poverty next year," he stated in a reaction to the King's Speech.
Social security is broader than just concerns about monthly income, said CDA leader Henri Bontenbal in reaction to the King’s Speech. "That is also about access to care, work, and education," the Christian Democrat said.
ChristenUnie leader Mirjam Bikker said the King delivered a “solid story” and that people's concerns about whether they can still pay their bills are “homework” for the 150 members of the Tweede Kamer. She wants to work with other parties to ensure the minimum wage goes up.
SP leader Lilian Marijnissen said after the speech that it was "a scandal" that the outgoing cabinet fails to ensure that poverty decreases. She mentioned all sorts of "concrete measures," such as raising the minimum wage, scrapping VAT on food and public transport, capping energy prices and abolishing the deductible to "ensure that people can simply pay their bills."
The leader of DENK Stephan van Baarle said in a reaction that it was "a great disgrace" for a wealthy country like the Netherlands that still 800,000 people are living in poverty and wants more money to be allocated for poverty reduction than the two billion euros proposed by the Cabinet.
The SGP leader Chris Stoffer the King's speech "a bit meager." Stoffer would have liked to hear about that group of people with good jobs who can no longer make ends meet. "Due to their own actions, Rutte IV has to keep a tight hold on the purse strings, and that is painful for middle incomes and single earners," the SGP leader said.
Trade unions called for structural solutions to increase the purchasing power of working people in the Netherlands. FNV chairman Tuur Elzinga noted that “while the Cabinet may be caretaker, the Tweede Kamer is not. This is the moment when we expect the political parties in the Tweede Kamer to demonstrate their commitment to the people and their willingness to truly do something for their social security.”
CNV chairman Piet Fortuin said he believes it is necessary to increase net wages "to maintain the purchasing power of working Netherlands." Moreover, he thinks the tax on labor should be reduced. "Someone who now earns 10 percent more gross often receives less than 10 percent net in their account and forfeits allowances. This is unacceptable. Working must pay again, especially in this tight labor market," he emphasized.
Agriculture and horticulture organization LTO also reacted to the King’s Speech, expressing concerns over the rising food prices due to new environmental and animal welfare policies. They urged the government to prevent the emergence of food poverty as a societal issue, calling for a 750 million euros allocation in the next year's budget for nature conservation and improvements in food production strategy.
Reporting by ANP