‘More of the same’: SP leader gives his verdict on new coalition agreement

7 February 2007

‘More of the same’: SP leader gives his verdict on new coalition agreement

“The tenor of the new coalition agreement is better than it was for Mr Balkenende’s previous cabinets, but there’s no sign of any real change in policy.” This was SP leader Jan Marijnissen’s conclusion after reading the “regeerakkoord”, the detailed plans drawn up by the three parties which have now agreed to form a government together: the Christian Democrats (CDA), Labour (PvdA) and the much smaller Christian Union. “Some fine ambitions are expressed, for example regarding neighbourhoods with a range of problems. But when it comes to how these aims are to be achieved, the accord sticks for the most part to a familiar path. So we’re still going to have market-working in health care; as far as that’s concerned we’re seeing absolutely no change of direction. Premier Balkenende is shifting the emphasis in a number of places, but the broad line consists above all in maintaining the same course.”

Jan Marijnissen“There are goals included in the accord which we share,” Mr Marijnissen conceded, “for example in relation to small-scale schools and nursing homes, to neighbourhoods and to bureaucracy. By just what concrete plans these are to be realised is not really stated, however. The SP will shortly be making concrete, constructive proposals in a number of these areas by which these excellent goals could be achieved, and whenever what in our view are the wrong measures are opted for we will criticise them. We will, for example, be voting against proposed reforms to the system for dealing with people who through some form of disability are unable to continue working, because what’s proposed is punitive and we’re completely against such an approach.”

In addition to a range of criticisms of proposed reforms to the ‘WAO’ scheme for people who are unfit for employment, the SP is roundly disappointed by the outcome of the coalition-forming negotiations in a whole range of policy areas, including participation in the development of the JSF, a new fighter plane; the future of the rejected European constitution; the unlimited tax allowance for mortgage payments, which saves the very rich huge amounts; the 30% rise in government ministers’ salaries and the equally exorbitant pocket-lining activities of top corporate executives; and the public enquiry into the course and direction of the war in Iraq. “On all of these it will be business as usual, more of the same, and Labour hasn’t won an inch of ground. I am squarely against the policies involved. The replacement of the ‘no claims bonus’ in health insurance with the requirement that individual patients make a financial contribution to the cost of their care is also a Pyrrhic victory, because such a requirement is scarcely a better idea.”

Marijnissen finds it extremely disturbing that not a single extra cent will be invested in health care. “Take the way in which extra money will be found for nursing care. Principally, investment must be paid for via a new offensive to increase efficiency. If money can be freed up by tackling bureaucracy, fine, but this must not lead to more of what has been dubbed ‘stop watch health care’ and a further depersonalisation of care for old people, a danger which is clearly presents in this approach.”

“Balkenende’s fourth government consists of a coalition which nobody was expecting to see. The SP will of course support any plans which tend to make the Netherlands more human, more ‘social’ in its priorities. But we will first and foremost be putting our energy into the formulation and bringing forward of alternatives.”

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