Let’s tackle the crisis together

16 January 2012

Let’s tackle the crisis together

The Netherlands stands at a crossroads. Our economy is in a recession which threatens to descend into a crisis of enormous magnitude, a crisis which is costing jobs, putting wages under pressure and posing a threat to our pension provision, a crisis with huge social consequences, one which undermines solidarity and confidence in the future.

Emile Roemer, Job Cohen and Jolande Sap, are respectively leaders of the SP, PvdA (Labour Party) and the Green Left.

This is no natural disaster which has befallen us. It is the product of a financial sector which is out of control, a system which allows the short term interests of shareholders and consumers to take precedence over the long term interests of citizens, workers and of our society as a whole. And there is equally no way out of this crisis that will simply befall us, that will simply emerge.

The government and the populist right PVV which ‘tolerates’ it sit idly by and broadcast via newspaper headlines everything that they don’t want. But this is no time to sit by, it’s time to sit up, to speak up, to roll up one’s sleeves, time to make the right choices for the future, so that the out-of-control financial system is put back on the rails and the long term interests of the Netherlands win out over short term profiteering or the short-sighted drive for austerity. Because you fight a recession with spending cuts which take account of solidarity, intelligent investments and intelligent reforms, not, as this government is doing, with cold-hearted spending cuts alone, or by sending the bill to people who had no part in causing this crisis. That is an approach which can only exacerbate the crisis, and not alleviate it, an approach which will ensure that thousands of people will lose their jobs and that economic recovery will be nipped in the bud. That is a hard lesson from history, a lesson that this government has forgotten.

There is an alternative. By cutting spending in a way which acknowledges solidarity, investing intelligently and through intelligent reforms, we will create jobs rather than destroying them. The PvdA, the SP and the Green Left have together taken up this challenge and will today, at our joint New Year rally, ‘Another Netherlands’, to be held in Nijmegen, present a solidarity-based, intelligent and ‘green’ investment plan, a plan for a country in which people can look forward to working instead of the prospect of unemployment, in which people are educated and where young and old can find employment, and where sustainable innovation and the greening of the economy are the guiding principles.

This can be achieved by the creation of work, the preservation of work, and the finding of work. Work can be created through the promotion of energy-saving construction and by converting to sustainable energy. In neighbouring Germany this has provided thousands of jobs. Work can be created by converting office blocks into living accommodation for young people and first-time buyers; by speeding up the maintenance of schools, hospitals and government buildings so that the building work needed will provide additional employment; through giving one of the symbols of our country, the great causeway known as the de Afsluitdijk, together with other dikes that keep our country above water, an early and thorough refurbishment.

We can preserve work by introducing a new Part-Time Labour Law. The great success of the regulation which helped drag firms such as NedCar, Scania and ASML back from the brink, saving thousands of workers’ jobs, could be continued and improved via the education and training of those taking part, so that in the future they can not only go back to their old firm, but also seek a different employer. Maintaining their existing terms of employment, people could take temporary work elsewhere, while the long-term unemployed could be given work by subsidising wage costs. Young people could continue their education, because young people are better adding to their knowledge than sitting at home.

Finally, the finding of work: with a ‘work pool’ for each sector we could find workers much more quickly and with fewer risks, enabling employers to address shortages in technical personnel by offering appropriate training to unemployed youth.

None of this need always cost money. Insulation pays back its costs and the conversion of office blocks could even produce revenue if we were to get rid of the tax advantages of leaving property empty. Strengthening of dams and dykes need only be accelerated. With co-financing, school boards can invest euros currently lying idle in better schools and thereby in jobs. But yes, some of this will cost, and these costs must be found via the gradual substitution of subsidies on fossil fuels by subsidies for sustainable energy and innovation. And lastly, a top tax rate must be introduced for high earners, in return for which they will get a more attractive country.
Today we will present these plans. Because we believe in the Netherlands. We know that together we can meet this crisis head on and at the same time make our country better. We are offering an alternative in order to keep people in work, young people in school and old people in decent retirement, an alternative based on spending cuts which take account of solidarity, intelligent investments and intelligent reforms.

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