SP presents crisis plan
SP presents crisis plan
Number one SP European Parliament election candidate Dennis de Jong today presented the Netherlands' biggest trade union federation, the FNV, with the party's crisis-busting plan 'Less Brussels: our answer to the crisis'. Together with SP Members of Parliament Paul Ulenbelt and Sadet Karabulut, De Jong participated in today's trade union demonstration in Brussels, calling for protection for workers, who are now being made to pay for a crisis which they had no hand in bringing about.
“A successful approach to the crisis would call for less Brussels," says De Jong. "The last few years have seen the institutions of the European Union do everything in their power to undermine working people's security. With jargon designed to obscure what's really going on, such as 'flexicurity', secure contracts and conditions have been chipped away at and social provisions attacked. Now we can see that what flexible contracts mean is that people can be put out of work en masse. What the crisis demands is just the opposite of this, more protection and better provision. But as things stand money is made available only to those who caused the crisis in the first place.”
The plan – 'Less Brussels: our answer to the crisis' – also contains proposals for restoring supervision of financial institutions and better coordination of economic policy between the EU member states. "An end must be put to the way in which countries have been competing with each other for lightness of supervision, as well as to the liberalisation of the financial sector," says De Jong. "Financial institutions must once again be subject to proper monitoring in any country in which they are active and not only where they have their head offices. We don't want to see any repeat of the debacle which saw the Nederlandse Bank, the country's national central bank, helpless as a result of EU rules to exercise any control over the Icelandic Icesave."
LESS BRUSSELS: OUR ANSWER TO THE CRISIS
Banks must be propped up with millions of euros in state aid while unemployment continues to increase. Cuts are already in the offing and are not aimed at the money grubbers but at ordinary people: workers, owners of small businesses, people living on state benefits of one kind or another, pensioners, the sick and disabled. How have we arrived at this state of affairs? And what has Europe to do with it?
CAUSE OF THE CRISIS
The crisis began because banks were no longer doing what they were established to do: handle payments, extend loans and deal with savings. Instead, their shareholders were demanding a 'fast buck'. Ever more opaque financial constructions were dreamed up which, while they delivered short-term profits for these shareholders and for the banks' senior managers, turned out in the longer term to be built on thin air. This house of cards was set to tumble, and eventually, via the banks, the entire economy, world-wide, fell into crisis.
Why did no-one pay attention to what the banks and other financial institutions were up to? Principally, this was because the EU's member states were involved in a race to the bottom: the lower the degree of surveillance, the more financial institutions would be attracted to establish themselves in your country. In addition, Brussels laid down that member states must put their trust in supervision by the authorities of the state in which the institution in question had its principal establishment. So the Nederlandse Bank, for example, was not permitted to monitor the activities of IceSave, because this was the responsibility of the Icelandic authorities.
During the last twenty years Brussels has taken a wrong turn. Through its belief in handing every sector to the market, even when it comes to public services, and declaring the principle of unrestricted competition to be sacred, Brussels has become the prisoner of neoliberalism. And now we are left to pick up the pieces.
The SP is in favour of an approach based on three central points:
- Protection of people who find themselves in difficulties as a result of the crisis
- Restoration of supervision of financial institutions
- Coordination of the economic policies of the member states
Keep people in work:
- No further flexibilisation of the labour market: people on temporary contracts are the first to lose their jobs. Instead, give people well-paid work and job security! No weakening of dismissal rights. Provide good benefits at national level, under a system which as far as possible keeps people in work, such as jobshare programmes by means of which young people can combine work and training. LESS BRUSSELS means putting an end to pressure from Brussels to flexibilise the labour market.
- No market in public services: the crisis is broader than ever, because services which would in the past generally have been provided by the state or through a combination of public and private sector activities, are not trusted to the market. Because of this, all of a sudden hospitals and other health care facilities can find themselves in financial difficulties. Health care workers are sacked, at the very time good quality health care is most needed. Postal workers are given the choice: 15% lower wage or you're out. LESS BRUSSELS means public services back in the hands of the public authorities and no interference from Brussels with what we in the Netherlands consider important. Hands off health care, the post, energy suppliers, public transport, social housing and education!
- Leave small businesses in peace: shopkeepers are driven mad by unnecessary petty regulations issuing from Brussels. A traditional butcher loses an average €7,000 euros per year on the notification of products, because Brussels insists that each product be notified separately. This can deal the death-blow to a business of this kind. At the same time banks which are in state hands or which have received enormous state aid are still not obliged to extend much-needed loans to small independent firms. LESS BRUSSELS means clearing space for people who put heart and soul into such small businesses.
Hands off our pensions:
- The European Commission has proposed that the pensionable age be raised in order to combat the effects of an ageing society. In the SP's view this is unnecessary, because enhanced tax revenues from taxable pensions will deliver just as much as the additional pensions will cost. In addition, a higher retirement age is undesirable, because more unemployed older people would come on to the labour market and these would have to be paid benefits instead of their pensions. LESS BRUSSELS means: European Commission, mind your own business. The pensionable age is fixed in the Netherlands for the Netherlands. And for us that means: 65 = 65!
- Brussels also wants to move towards comparable pension systems for all member states. Dutch people have saved for many years for their pensions, which means that our system is more favourable to people in retirement than is the case in other member states where pension funds have been neglected. What then have we to gain from European regulation in this area? LESS BRUSSELS means hands off our pensions!
RESTORATION OF SUPERVISION OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
People responsible at national level for the supervision of financial institutions must be given back the capacity to monitor all financial institutions active in the Netherlands. We need to get rid of the idea that we should trust the supervisory system in the country where an institution has its principle establishment.
We must also put an end to competition between member states over who can exercise the least supervision. The SP is therefore not opposed to the drawing up of international agreements on minimum levels of such supervision. In addition, cooperation between national supervisory bodies must be improved. But we see no advantage to having a single European supervisor, which would cause more confusion than it solved problems. The emphasis should be on the national supervisory bodies which on the basis of common agreements should improve their cooperation.
COORDINATION OF ECONOMIC POLICY
In the short term we can help to solve the crisis by encouraging sustainable investments. The Netherlands is an open economy, and so we must above all invest in things which we know will have the greatest possible positive effect for the population in general. We need affordable housing and improved public transport, we need to tackle the problem of those who fall behind in education, innovation must be encouraged and we sustainable energy invested in.
Member states should not, of course, hinder each other in these respects and for that reason bringing policies into tune is useful and necessary. The accent must lie on job creation, not on the interests of shareholders and money grubbers. In addition, a fundamental discussion is needed in both the Netherlands and at European level over the economy. The power of shareholders must be reduced; half of a firm's board of directors should be appointed by the works' council. Money grubbers must be dealt with and bonuses abolished or heavily taxed. If we don't do these things, we'll soon see, once again, priority given to the pursuit of the fast buck. The survival of a firm will continue to be of less importance than the short term profits of shareholders. Hedge funds and junk bonds must be curtailed. This will enable us to prevent a situation in which we will soon see another crisis following directly on this one as a consequence of the corporate culture of money grubbing.
LESS BRUSSELS means recognising that the neoliberal system is bankrupt. This in turn means that in both the Netherlands and Brussels it must be ensured that it is not the money grubbers who hold sway, but the workers, owners of small businesses, people on benefits, the sick and the disabled and the pensioners – in short, the vast majority!