As election approaches, Roemer attacks government record

21 September 2016

As election approaches, Roemer attacks government record

SP leader Emile Roemer today gave the SP's response to the government's plans for the coming year, announced on Tuesday. These included the centre-right-centre-left coalition's final budget before it must face the electorate. In his speech to Parliament, with next year's election looming, Roemer attacked the government's record, concentrating for the most part on domestic concerns, particularly the rising cost of health care and the increasing inequality of which it is a major cause. Young and old deserve better, he said. There were ever fewer permanent jobs, and student grants had been abolished. School classes were far too large. Pensions had been lowered, while banks were rescued with taxpayers' money and pension funds rack up record profits.

Hospitals were closing down while the government, which had introduced the 'market' into health care, spoke of greater choice. Power had passed to health insurance companies, and waste of premiums had been the result. Ten years ago, health care in the Netherlands was less expensive than the European average; now it was dearer.

Every section of the Dutch population had lost disposable income since 2005, Roemer said, aside from the richest 20%. Public employees such as teachers and police officers were among those who were now worse off. In the private sector, many small and medium-sized firms had gone to the wall. Meanwhile, tax evasion by big corporations via mailbox companies was rife. The government spoke of “standards and values”, but “self-enrichment for an elite of multinationals and punishment of people who've had a bit less luck, these are not the standards and values of the SP.”

Roemer went on to talk about the problems of finding a decent job, especially for those with a disability; the increasing difficulty in paying for decent housing; and a range of social and environmental problems. Inconsistencies were undermining any real progress towards sustainable energy.

As well as dealing with the range of problems which will be familiar to citizens of almost every EU member state and many in other parts of the world, Roemer also turned his attention beyond the country's borders, particularly in the direction of the war-torn middle east. “We can't see the problems in the Netherlands as separate from those which occur outside the country,” he stressed. “In Syria a destructive war has been raging for years, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions of refugees as its consequences. Still more military interventions won't bring a solution nearer. People in Syria need bread, not bombs. The war in Syria is complicated enough. Everyone is fighting everyone. The fact that the cease-fire appears to have already failed is therefore of great concern to the SP. We can't accept that Turkey is once again following a double agenda in its fight against the Kurds.” Roemer then posed a question. “Does the Prime Minister share our view that the Turks' actions in the north of Syria must be condemned and Turkish tanks must return to Turkey?”

People in the Netherlands were worried, Roemer said. Many were sympathetic to the refugees and concerned about the dangerous conditions under which these people are forced to survive. “The first step is of course to put an end to this lingering conflict, however difficult that may be. In addition we must support the entire region in offering the best possible reception in camps where they can also work towards a future. But that's still not enough. We have to take our responsibility for people fleeing from war and violence, certainly when this involves vulnerable children. On the other hand people are also concerned about what the refugees will mean for our country. Whether we can offer them a decent reception. Whether there's sufficient housing for everyone. Whether newcomers in our society will be able to integrate properly. That's why small-scale refugee facilities, broad public support, sufficient housing, language lessons and good counselling in relation to integration are all necessary.”

In March, Roemer concluded, the electorate will say what sort of country we want to live in. One divided, or a country for all Dutch people, where all can have an influence, and big corporations like Apple and Starbucks have to pay their taxes. “I want,” he said, “to get rid of a country where all must continually compete with all in favour of a country in which we live and work together” Racism and discrimination, he said, divide people and the struggle against them goes hand in hand with the struggle against social exclusion.”

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