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Soualiga Newsday Focus (1702)

Budget leaks: average incomes to benefit most from spending power boost

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Spending power will go up across the board next year, but middle incomes will benefit the most, RTL Nieuws said on Friday.

The broadcaster based its claim on leaked documents ahead of next Tuesday’s budget, which will include the formal spending power forecasts. People on middle incomes – around €38,000 a year – will enjoy a 2% increase in spending power but low-income households will also benefit, RTL said.

The increase will be paid for by a delay in implementing corporate tax cuts and a drop in the tax benefit for freelancers. Earlier this week the national statistics office CBS said average spending power rose just 0.3% last year and is set to rise by 1.2% in 2019.

In June, prime minister Mark Rutte warned he might abandon corporate tax cuts if companies don’t put up wages. ‘The only thing which is going up is the salaries of senior staff, not people covered by collective labour agreements (cao),’ Rutte said.

‘They are not going up enough, and I do not consider that to be acceptable.’

(DutchNews)

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Scrapping grants has not hurt student numbers, minister says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Scrapping student grants in 2015 has not had an impact on the number of Dutch teenagers signing up for college and university, according to education ministry research.

The number of new students has remained virtually unchanged, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven told MPs on Friday. This, the minister said, was a ‘positive sign’ that equal access to education is being maintained, broadcaster NOS reported.

Earlier this month, the Dutch Labour party did a u-turn and is now calling for the return of student grants, which were abolished under a Labour minister. Since 2015, students have had to borrow to fund their degree courses and run up an average debt of around €21,000 by the time they graduate.

‘We can now see that the debt is proving a problem for a large group,’ PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher said. The change of position by the Labour party means there is now majority support for the return of grants in parliament.

Two of the four coalition parties – the CDA and ChristenUnie – also back a return to grants. Grants did not cover all student bills but did reduce the amount students had to borrow.

The end of student grants was finally pushed through parliament in 2015 with the support of Liberal democratic party D66 and the left-wing greens of GroenLinks. In May, Groenlinks also changed its position and called for the return of the grant system.

(DutchNews)

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Japanese couple jailed for four years for starving, abusing their children

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A Japanese couple living in Brabant have been jailed for four years for systematically starving and mistreating six of their seven children.

The court in Breda found the couple guilty of the attempted murder of five of their children, by giving them such small amounts of food that they could have died, and of physically abusing them.

The case was ‘totally shocking’, the judges said in their ruling. Noriku and Hidufun M, aged 40 and 39, moved to the village of Molenschot near Breda in February 2018 with their seven children, three each from a previous marriage and their new baby.

But by the end of June, the parents were in custody and several children had been hospitalised because they had been systematically starved and beaten.

According to the AD, schoolteachers reported that the children were begging for food from classmates and scavenging for food from bins, the paper said. The family were picked up while heading for Germany in a minibus after the oldest child, a 12-year-old boy, escaped at a motorway service station.

‘He was in a foreign country, far away from all he knew,’ the court said. ‘It is hard to imagine how desperate he must have been.’ All the children are now living with relatives back in Japan.

It is unclear from the Dutch media reports why the family was in the Netherlands. However, according to local broadcaster Omroep Brabant, they had little contact with outsiders and reports of ‘strange behaviour’ began circulating in the village soon after they arrived.

(DutchNews)

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Dutch soldiers arrive in the Bahamas to help with hurricane clean-up

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 650 Dutch, French and German military personnel have arrived in the Abaco islands in the Bahamas on board two Dutch navy ships, to help with the clean-up operation in the wake of hurricane Dorian.

Some 50 people were killed when the hurricane tore through the island group, destroying 13,000 homes and wrecking the infrastructure, particularly in the north.

The Dutch soldiers will first work to restore order to the port area and then place tents to store supplies. Some people will also be dispatched to help at local hospitals.

‘We have 40 to 50 vehicles with us which we will dispatch inland as soon as possible, where transport is needed,’ commander Ad van de Sande told broadcaster NOS.

According to the United Nations, some 70,000 people on the island group need direct access to clean water, food, medicine and shelter.

(DutchNews)

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Health insurance via work? The discounts are being cut next year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Most people whose health insurance is organised via their job are unaware that the system is being shaken up from next year, according to research by Q&A.

The government plans to cut the maximum discount on collective health insurance schemes from 10% to 5% next year, but 90% of people polled by the research group said they were not aware of the changes.

A spokesman for health minister Bruno Bruins told the AD that insurers should be informing their clients about the cuts. ‘We will approach health insurers to pressure them to communicate this carefully,’ the spokesman said.

Research has shown that some 50% of people will sign up for a collective health insurance policy because of the discounts, but that many end up being over-insured or paying too much.

Research by comparison website Zorgwijzer.nl last year showed that here are numerous cases where an individual insurance plan is cheaper than one that is set up through a collective. In addition, many argue collective policies are unfair.

‘There is an unfair element in collective insurance,’ Zorgwijzer.nl spokesman Koen Kuijper said. ‘If you are not part of any group, you cannot profit from the discount.

Everyone should get equal access to healthcare and basic health insurance. Fiddling with discounts for specific groups disadvantages others.’

(DutchNews)

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Dutch population will rise by one million by 2035, says CBS

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch population will grow by more than a million people by 2035, according to projections by the Dutch environmental assessment agency PBL and statistics office CBS.

The agencies say in a new report that the population will rise to 18.3 million inhabitants from the 17.1 million current total. Cities will see the strongest growth and the population of Amsterdam alone is projected to rise by 150,000.

Growth is also projected in municipalities near large cities, such as Almere and Haarlemmermeer (Amsterdam) Zuidplas (Rotterdam) and Rijswijk (The Hague.) However, the population in places like Groningen, Drenthe, Achterhoek, Limburg and Zeeuws-Vlaanderen is projected to shrink.

The report looks at other city demographics, including aging and residency. Currently, people over 65 make up 19% of the total population, and that is set to rise to 25% by 2035.

Though the population is ageing within cities, the rate is higher in rural areas, where some 30% of the population will be pensioners by that date. The agencies noted that projections are always uncertain and that things like home construction and immigration can be difficult to predict.

(DutchNews)

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Off-duty Dordrecht policeman shoots daughters, 8 and 12, and wife

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The quiet residential estate of Sterrenburg in Dordrecht has been shocked by a family killing in which an off-duty policeman shot dead his two daughters, seriously injured his wife and then turned his gun on himself.

The woman died later in hospital, the Telegraaf said on Tuesday, quoting police sources. One neighbour told the Telegraaf she had spoken to the mother a couple of days ago and ‘she was very sad but did not want to say what was wrong,’ the neighbour said.

Mayor Wouter Kolff described the neighbourhood as close-knit. The mayor and public prosecution department are due to make a statement later on Tuesday.

(DutchNews)

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Unmarried mother forced to give up her baby is suing the Dutch state

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An unmarried mother who claims the government policy played a part in forcing her to give up her newborn baby in the 60s is suing the state for emotional damage, claiming it flouted Dutch and international law, Trouw reported on Tuesday.

Trudy Scheele-Gertsen (73) is one of over 10,000 women in the 1950s, 60s and 70s who gave up their child at birth. She is also the first woman to go to court over accusations of unlawful behaviour by the state between 1956, when the adoption law was passed, and 1984, when abortion became legal.

Scheele-Gertsen claims that care for unmarried mothers at the time was focused on separating mothers and children. According to her lawyer Lisa-Marie Komp this contravened Dutch and international law which said the tie between mother and child should be preserved on principle, Trouw said.

Child protection agency Raad voor de Kinderbescherming also ignored Scheele-Gertsen’s repeatedly expressed wish to keep and raise he child, she said, and her case was never heard in court, which should have been part of the procedure.

She also claims never to have been told of her right to welfare and financial support from the father of the child. The boy ended up in care for the first three years of his life before he was adopted.

Organised system

‘What was done to me and my son is disgraceful,’ she told the paper, ‘that is the main reason I am going to court.’ Scheele-Gertsen claims the state was instrumental in forcing women to give up their babies by putting in place an ‘organised system’.

Scheele-Gertsen also said she wants to know why care disappeared from homes for unmarried mothers in the 1950s and why state institutions promoted the idea that keeping unmarried mothers and their children together was undesirable.

These and other questions will form part of the inquiry announced by junior justice minister Sander Dekker into the circumstances under which unmarried women parted with their babies.

Pressure

The association De Nederlandse Afstandsmoeders, an organisation which champions the cause of unmarried women who gave up their children at the time, said she ‘had never come across a case in which the woman hadn’t been put under enormous pressure to part with her child and whose files didn’t contain mistakes’.

‘From experience and from conversations with other mothers, we know what a devastating effect it had and how riddled with mistakes the whole process was. Unconsciously or consciously, this was often as a result of a deliberate policy which prejudiced unmarried women and girls,’ chairwoman Will van Sebille told the paper.

(DutchNews)

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Government spending on royal furniture adds up to €10m over 40 years

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch royal family has received around €10 million from the government in the last 40 years for the upkeep and replacement of furniture in four palaces, according to a study of official documents by NRC.

In 1978 the government agreed to buy the entire contents of the two ‘working palaces’ of Noordeinde and Huis ten Bosch, both in The Hague, in a deal which was later extended to Soestdijk palace and Het Loo in Apeldoorn.

The agreement includes an annual maintenance budget, linked to wage and price inflation, which had risen to €320,000 in 2019. Prime minister Dries van Agt drew up the plan to acquire the royal family’s furniture in 1978 in connection with an act passed five years earlier designed to secure the monarch’s income.

Until 1973 the queen’s income was specified in the constitution, meaning any pay rise required a two-thirds majority in parliament. In the 1960s Queen Juliana asked for her allowance to be more than doubled from 2.5 million to 5.2 million guilders, but the plan was opposed by Labour (PvdA) members.

The cabinet decided to devise a new method for paying royal wages and expenses that would modernise and formalise the system while avoiding a repeat of the controversy surrounding Juliana’s pay demand.

The result was the 1973 Wet financieel statuut van het Koninklijk Huis. Previously confidential documents outlining how the agreement came about were made public last year and are held in the national archives.

Since one of Juliana’s main financial gripes was the high cost of maintaining the palaces, the government agreed to take ownership of the furniture and let the royal household keep it on loan, on condition that it did not leave the palaces without permission.

The new rules led to clashes between the royal household and government departments on who foots the bill for new furniture, according to NRC. In 1978 the then princess Beatrix requested a set of cabinets for her study at Paleis ten Bosch for 300,000 guilders.

Ministers argued that the items should be paid out of the royal family’s own resources, but Beatrix’s adviser, Carel van Schelle, argued firmly that they were ‘functional’ and should be acquired by the government.

(DutchNews)

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Justice officials pressed for Wilders to be prosecuted for ‘fewer Moroccans’ speech

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Senior civil servants put pressure on prosecutors to take Geert Wilders to court for his ‘fewer Moroccans’ speech, according to documents seen by RTL Nieuws.

In a series of memos, justice ministry officials wrote that Wilders’s comments were ‘malicious’ and ‘racist’. One asked, after reading a confidential report prepared for justice minister Ivo Opstelten in September 2014: ‘Is the prosecution service now convinced of the desirability and viability of a prosecution?’

The leader of the anti-immigration PVV party is currently appealing against his conviction for inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans in the televised speech, delivered in the aftermath of the local elections in March 2014.

Wilders asked a roomful of supporters if they wanted to have ‘more or fewer’ Moroccans in the country. When the crowd shouted back: ‘Fewer, fewer,’ Wilders responded: ‘We’ll take care of that.’

In December 2016, a panel of three judges ruled that the comments were ‘demeaning and insulting to the Moroccan population’. Wilders’s lawyer, Geert-Jan Knoops, last week asked judges to dismiss the case after it emerged that Opstelten discussed it with justice department officials before the decision to prosecute was announced.

The appeal court rejected the request, but judges have said they will investigate claims of political interference during the course of the hearing.

Call for inquiry

The current justice minister, Ferd Grapperhaus, declined to respond to the contents of the memos, which have been released by RTL Nieuws. He said: ‘I need to be extremely reticent regarding the contents of the documents that have been handed over.

It is precisely because I don’t get involved in individual cases that I will not be commenting on them at this time.’ Wilders said the memos were evidence of a ‘witch-hunt’ by Opstelden, a minister from the right-wing liberal VVD party, said the appeal hearing should be stopped and called for a parliamentary inquiry.

‘It is unbelievable that the justice ministry interfered in my case in such detail,’ he said. ‘It looks like a witch-hunt, an act of retribution by the VVD minister and his department against me.’

Politicians from other parties also voiced concerns about government officials had meddled in the business of the courts. ‘The prosecution service is not an arm of the ministry, but part of our judiciary,’ said D66 MP Maarten Groothuizen.

‘It looks as if the department wants to have a lot of control. That fits with the impression that civil servants are doing whatever it takes to keep their ministers out of the firing line.’

Labour MP Attje Kuiken said the memos contradicted previous assurances that there had been no interference in Wilders’s trial. ‘I want Grapperhaus to explain what has been discussed with the prosecution service and I want to know as well why the minister did not disclose this earlier.’

(DutchNews)

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