Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves the Royal Palace, in The Hague, Netherlands January 15, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned after thousands of parents receiving child welfare payments were incorrectly labeled as fraudsters.  

The tax office said many were targeted based on their ethnic origin or dual nationalities. Around 10,000 families were forced to repay tens of thousands of euros each, in some cases leading to unemployment, bankruptcies and divorce. 

A parliamentary inquiry last month found that tax officials wrongly accused thousands of families of fraud over childcare subsidies between 2013 and 2019. In an op-ed in Trouw, many families called for changes to welfare systems and for the politicians involved in the scandal to leave the government for good.

Opposition Labor party leader Lodewijk Asscher, who was the social affairs minister for the previous administration, resigned on Thursday. Leader of the Greenleft party Jesse Klaver said the government’s resignation is “the only right decision,” describing it as a “turning point.”

Rutte pledged in a press conference that the government would compensate affected parents as quickly as possible. Affected parents will receive 30,000 euros ($36,300) in compensation.

“We are of one mind that if the whole system has failed, we all must take responsibility, and that has led to the conclusion that I have just offered the king, the resignation of the entire Cabinet,” he said. The move is largely symbolic, as Rutte’s government will remain in office until a new coalition is formed after a March 17 election.

The report said government ministers, members of parliament, civil servants and court judges all bore responsibility. Dutch prosecutors declined to investigate possible discrimination. Twenty of the families involved filed charges against the health minister, finance minister, former tax minister and others involved in Rutte’s coalition. They alleged criminal negligence, discrimination and the violation of childrens’ rights.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

Dutch government resigns over child benefits scandal – Deutsche Welle – 1/15/2021
The Dutch tax office had accused thousands of families of fraudulently claiming child welfare payments between 2013 and 2019. It demanded repayments of tens of thousands of euros, driving many families into financial ruin and, in some cases, divorce. A parliamentary report called it an “unprecedented injustice” to claw back tens of thousands of euros without giving the accused a chance to prove their innocence. 

Dutch government under Mark Rutte resigns – Der Tagesspiegel – 1/15/2021
The crisis is unlikely to have any consequences for the outcome of the parliamentary elections on March 17th. According to the polls, Rutte’s right-wing liberal party VVD is way ahead and he could form a new government. Rutte had already assured that the government would remain fully capable of dealing with the corona crisis even after resigning.

Mixed feelings amongst wronged families on cabinet resignation – DutchNews.nl – 1/15/2021
Wendy van Hofwegen, from Amsterdam, who lost her childcare business as a result of being labelled a ‘fraudster’ by the tax office, which had wrongly claimed back some €60,000 from her, said the collective resignation achieved nothing. ‘It is just for show,’ she said.

“It went horribly wrong”: Mark Rutte offers to resign from his government – Het Nieuwsblad – 1/15/2021
Rutte emphasized that there was unanimity within the coalition about the view that the benefits affair was serious enough to warrant the dismissal of the entire government. Only the question whether a resigning government is able to thoroughly tackle the corona crisis, still raised doubts. “We are of one mind. If the entire system has failed, only joint responsibility can be borne. ”

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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