‘The time of free money is over’, gloomy Spring Memorandum

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The Spring Memorandum will be sent to the House of Representatives today. ‘The most important thing we are going to hear is that the time of free money is over,’ says political reporter Leendert Beekman. ‘We are going to cut costs, for the first time in years.’ It is not yet known what exactly is in the Spring Memorandum, but many plans have been leaked since Wednesday.

The two biggest austerity measures are the suspension of the STAP budget and the postponement of (almost) free childcare.
The two biggest austerity measures are the suspension of the STAP budget and the postponement of (almost) free childcare. (ANP / ANP)

Stripe through STAP budget and free childcare postponed

For example, it is already clear that the STAP budget will be cut and that (almost) free childcare will not be available until 2027 – instead of 2025. Postponing free childcare should yield the state 3 billion euros once, the scrapped STAP budget saves about 200 million per year. On the other hand, the surcharges will be relaxed.

These cuts are necessary because the government is structurally short of 3 billion euros. ‘There is now a structural gap in the budget and that needs to be structurally covered. Interest rates are rising and so are budget deficits. We have to make painful choices again. The free money has run out’, says Beekman. There have also been incidental setbacks of several billion in recent years.

Cheese slicer method

Since Wednesday, the term ‘cheese slicer method’ has become commonplace in The Hague. ‘The thickest slabs come from the ministries with the largest budgets’, says Beekman. ‘Then you quickly end up at Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). There was talk of increasing the deductible, but the ChristenUnie really couldn’t agree to that. So that’s not going to happen.’

It is not yet clear what will happen at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. ‘A lot is leaked from The Hague, but the doors at VWS have been closed since the end of corona. We don’t know exactly what they’re up to.’

In contrast to VWS, the doors at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment are open. That is where the cuts in the STAP budget and childcare come from. Incidentally, not all ministries get a cheese slicer over them. ‘Defense and the poverty reduction portfolio will be spared,’ says Beekman.

“It’s going to be quite a complicated puzzle.”

Leendert Beekman, political reporter BNR

The Spring Memorandum that will be sent to the House of Representatives today will only contain plans on the expenditure side of the budget. The income side will be spared for the time being. ‘Kaag will adhere to the budget rules: if you are short on the expenditure side, you must also solve it on the expenditure side. Nothing is being done on the income side, at least until the autumn. We already know that some coalition parties want to look at taxing capital and SMEs more heavily. That will be quite a complicated puzzle.’

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