‘Promises for free beer are no longer possible’

‘Promises for free beer are no longer possible’
‘Promises for free beer are no longer possible’

Eight parties had their election manifestos independently calculated: what do the plans cost, what do they deliver, who will make progress, who will make concessions? The results, published on Wednesday, will now be an important factor in the election campaign.

Tobias den Hartog and Laurens KokNovember 8, 202320:01

In a room of the House of Representatives building, Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks-PvdA) puts it this way: “Here you have to bare your buttocks. You can no longer hide behind nice texts in your election manifesto.” Because that is what the accountants at the Central Planning Bureau (CPB) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) do: look at the effects of all those nice plans. The costs and the revenues. For wallet and climate. The effect on the last weeks before the elections should not be underestimated.

Spice it up or keep it vague

There is a campaign before and a campaign after all that hard calculation. Because the results also reveal what parties prefer to conceal, embellish or keep vague. And therefore also what party leaders will beat each other over the ears with.

For example, it appears that VVD is canceling all development aid abroad, while in the election manifesto it still talked about ‘putting it under the magnifying glass’. And while the program still stated that it still wanted almost free childcare for working people, it appears that this plan has simply been abandoned in the calculations.

The CDA also shows its colours: that party does little extra to increase the minimum wage, while the party suggested more in the election manifesto, with the words ‘adequate increase in the minimum wage’.

Until now, GroenLinks-PvdA were still somewhat vague about how much extra tax must be collected from companies, but there is now a figure: companies will have to cough up an additional 25 billion euros together. It is also painful: while D66, Volt and GroenLinks-PvdA mentioned in their program a climate-neutral Netherlands by 2040, the PBL states: it is not likely that this goal will be achieved with their plans.

Self-congratulations trump

Yet you won’t see party leaders whining with the numbers on their laps. After all, there is plenty to show off in the results. One provides the most jobs (‘jobs champion!’), the other is greener, and another causes the national debt to increase the least.

So in that same room yesterday there was self-congratulation after the results were presented. Klaver: “Our plans… that is the left at its best.” Or listen to D66 member Steven van Weyenberg: “D66 is the best in Europe when it comes to climate!” Or Pieter Grinwis (Christian Union): “You shouldn’t pat yourself on the back, but I’ll say it anyway: we are champions in combating poverty.”

And the parties immediately took the opportunity to point out each other’s shortcomings. For example, D66 member Weyenberg, shaking his head, pointed to the VVD: “They are cutting back on education… incomprehensible.” And Klaver again to D66: “They have thrown government finances completely out of balance in recent years… Others must now correct that.” And he also had a swipe at the VVD ready: “That party is increasing poverty. Scandalous.”

At the CDA they point to the VVD: that party is increasing corporate taxes, phew! At CU there was a chuckle at the CDA: the party is against the legalization of soft drugs, but does want a hash tax. And according to the CPB, this requires regulation/legalization of soft drugs.


The arithmetic referees of the CPB are left with an incomplete playing field: important political parties do not participate in the calculation. BBB, PVV, SP, but also Pieter Omtzigt’s NSC, among others, are missing from the numbers. They use a variety of arguments – no time, no good calculation method – for not participating. SP leader Lilian Marijnissen spoke of an ‘accountants debate’, Omtzigt claims that he did not have enough time to submit everything.

But that will also resonate in the final phase of the campaign. Klaver said he thought it was a ‘shame’ that Omtzigt did not participate, while CDA MP Bart van den Brink was more fierce: “We have had enough free beer discussions…” In other words: everyone can want to improve the world, but then also show how and how you pay for it.

Moreover, there is some ammunition against the parties that refused to cooperate. Because they had not counted on a retired CPB employee. In recent weeks, this Wim Suyker has therefore calculated on his own what the plans of BBB and Omtzigt, among others, cost.

His conclusion: these parties will cause the government deficit to increase significantly over the next four years. And the striking thing is: the parties that did submit their plans to the CPB, almost all ended up with a lower budget deficit.

However, it must be said: only the VVD is responding to the calls from top officials, the so-called Budget Space Study Group, to make significant cuts in the coming years, but by canceling all development aid. But neither party will advertise their own shortcomings heading into election day.

What the accountants saw next

Most parties want it minimum wage increase additionally. The VVD is in favor of an increase of 5 percent (the state pension by 0.7), while benefits remain the same. D66 goes for 10 percent, GroenLinks-PvdA for 13.3 percent.

Although VVD, CDA and Ja21 asylum want to limit this by quickly selecting at the door (who has the right to stay and who does not?), they want to make significant cuts in the service that has to do this. This is striking, because in recent years asylum procedures have often been delayed because the IND had a shortage of people to process applications.

The National Growth Fund, the Climate Fund, the Nitrogen Fund: they are all being dismantled to a greater or lesser extent. Left-wing parties also hold on to the environmental plans.

GroenLinks-PvdA, ChristenUnie and Volt want the mortgage interest deduction limit further. Volt wants a tax on the profits from the sale of your house and increases the transfer tax. GroenLinks-PvdA wants to maximize rent increases for all rental properties, including in the private sector.

The article is in Dutch

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