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Dutch Liberals Open to Changes in Government Austerity Package

The Liberals, one of the two parties in the Dutch coalition government, said they’re open to changes in the administration’s 6 billion-euro ($8 billion) austerity package, while backing the size of the budget cuts.

“I assume all parties are in agreement with the need to cut 6 billion euros but I am open to suggestions,” Halbe Zijlstra, the leader of the Liberals, known as the VVD in Dutch, said in Parliament in The Hague today. “We need to make those cuts anyway, so why not do it now as we know that they have to be made eventually.”

The Netherlands is in its third recession since the global financial crisis started in 2008 and has been in breach of the European Union’s deficit limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product since then. Next year’s budget shortfall will widen to 3.3 percent of GDP from 3.2 percent in 2013, even after the government introduced the additional austerity package, the government’s planning agency said Sept. 15.

Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s plan for additional cost cuts and tax increases, presented Sept. 17, comes on top of a four-year, 16 billion-euro package his coalition with the Labor Party approved in November when it took office. Of this, 3.5 billion euros were already penciled in to take effect in 2014.

The government today defeated a no-confidence motion in Parliament introduced by Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party and backed by the Socialist Party and the Party for Animals. “I can’t deny that we don’t have confidence in the government coming up with the right measures,” Socialist leader Emile Roemer told the house.

The motion was rejected by 113 votes to 31, the chairwoman of the chamber, Anouchka van Miltenburg, announced to lawmakers.

Rutte is scheduled to respond in Parliament tomorrow.

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