This week has seen a plethora of spin from the Dutch government, all of it blatantly devised to paint a rosier picture to Jan and Rita Hollander. But the spin hides the real facts behind the level of contempt this current government has for its own populace and how removed from reality they really are.
It first started out with an article on how spending power had “risen for most households”. But if you read the article and strip away the spin and bullshit, you soon realise that the whilst the article plays light of the fact that “some people” will be worse off, they actually make up the bulk of the population. And it went on to speak of how the government and technocrats working in the civil service are set to reduce and hack away at the current benefits we enjoy over the next 20 years. These are things like spending on roads, schools, cultural institutions and the big one….MORTGAGE INTEREST RELIEF.
The Mortgage Interest Relief cut has been on the cards and the tips of every politicians tongue since the last general election. It is the Dutch sacred cow equivalent to the Britain’s NHS. Here in the Netherlands, home-owners can deduct the interest they pay on their mortgage against their taxes, for up to 30 years. As the press is quick to point out, “the Dutch system is one of the most generous in Europe”, don’t you know. What they fail to point out though is the fact that the housing market here is requisite upon two things;
Number 1 – The 100% mortgage, which has been a product available to the Dutch for many years, long before the rest of the world got in on the act, and
Number 2 – The Mortgage Interest Relief, which facilitates the average Cloggy from actually affording a mortgage in the first place, given that the Dutch government is essence picks up the tab for the interest that is paid to the banks.
If you take either one away, you will suddenly have an implosion in the housing market. And if you take the second one away, well I guess you can add the letter “N” to that PIIGS acronym everyone else in Europe seems so content to deride night after night on the evening news. The Dutch press, naturally picked up on the stories, and if the conversations overheard in my office canteen can be in any way considered a good barometer of the national conscious, this is definitely something that Jan and Rita Hollander are worried about.
So Dutch politicians – who are entitled to massive unemployment benefits of 100% prior salary for up to five years (whilst Jan and Rita will only get max 70% for 2 years) and who will receive a pension if they are no longer a minister, even if they are below the new pensionable age of 67 – have decided the fate of the ordinary cloggy, whilst supping on port from their ivory towers. They even believe the preposterous notion that opening the floodgates and allowing the likes of a dentist to charge whatever the hell he likes will actually result in a REDUCTION of dental fees!!!
If I know the Dutch, and having lived here a long time, I believe I know them well, given half the chance the greedy fuckers will jack up their prices, knowing full well that in the end the patients are going to HAVE to go to them eventually once their toothache becomes unbearable, and that the insurance companies will cough up no matter what the fee. The insurance companies are not so stupid though, and already three of the smaller ones announced premium hikes for dental cover. This separation from reality, this belief of fiction over fact has become the norm for Dutch politics. They live in a cocooned world where they have no idea how the average Jan and Rita lives. And what’s more, they are so insolent and aloof, that they couldn’t care less about how the peasants live….just as long as they don’t bother the minister!
The sad truth though is that this money grabbing, parsimonious style of government and its attitudes to public expenditure are doing little to drive the economy forward and put it on a good footing for economic growth later. The inward looking Dutch and their cribbing about the 30% ruling are extremely short sighted and solely centred on a lack of understanding that the average expat has exorbitant costs living here compared to the average cloggy….not least the biggest one being rent and the fact that a cloggy invariably lives either in their own home (see the mortgage argument earlier) or in cheap public housing. A new expat has to wait 4 years on the housing waiting list and has not got access to cheap credit lines or mortgages when they arrive straight off the plane. On top of that, the greedy Dutch landlords jack up rent prices by a factor of 4 when they know a western expat wants to rent out their measly 60sqm apartment, compared to the lower prices a Cloggy will pay for a similar apartment. And besides, we expats are paying for your children’s creche, your unemployment benefits, your schools and God knows what else whilst getting bugger all in return. Meanwhile you get the expertise in your home marketplace from experienced foreigners and gain the knowledge and training that we bring with us when we move here. Thus adding value in the longer term.
Given the fact that the Dutch economy is on the brink of another recession you would think it would spark them into life. But sadly not. The scary thing is that the German and French economies all showed economic growth, whilst the Dutch economy has contracted. When you factor the proposed increases in taxes, healthcare costs, childcare services, and the potential loss of the interest relief, 2012 is going to be a very interesting year. Right now the government is more content with spouting to anyone who could be bothered to listen as to why they feel justified in preventing Romania and Bulgaria from joining Schengen or why the likes of Greece, Ireland and Portugal (along with a few choice others they’d care to be rid of) should be kicked out of the eurozone, rather than addressing their own mismanagement of the Dutch economy. Maybe when they hit crisis level they’ll be more than happy to start viewing the rest of Europe as partners rather than indignant neighbours they’d much prefer to ignore and insult.
I don’t think the Netherlands is ever going to return to its level of a power status player within Europe, and suggest that it should resign itself to the role of a wiser elder statesman, rather that the typical image of a spoiled, loud mouthed prick who thinks he knows everything and has an over inflated sense of entitlement just because his passport says Koninkrijk der Nederlanden on the front.