Dutch political parties close to budget deal: media

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2012 2:28 AM
Dutch political parties close to budget deal: media

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch minority government and its ally, the Freedom Party, are close to reaching agreement on between 10 billion euros to 16 billion euros ($13.2-$21.1 billion) of budget cuts needed to curb a bloated deficit, Dutch media reported on Friday.

Any package of spending cuts would still need to be evaluated by the government's economic think tank, the CPB, to ensure the measures were sufficient to bring the budget deficit within the European Commission's target of 3 percent of GDP.

Dutch media reported on Friday that the proposed cuts could be presented to the CPB early next week, with a final deal possibly agreed by April 20.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has already sounded out one of the smaller opposition parties, the Christian Union Reformed Party (SGP), seeking a parliamentary majority for the proposed cuts.

The Liberal-Christian Democrat minority coalition depends on Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, an anti-immigration, eurosceptic group, for a slender one-seat majority in parliament. But that majority is no longer guaranteed after an MP quit the Freedom Party in March to run as an independent.

The government and Wilders have held budget talks since early March. At one stage the negotiations appeared to be on the verge of collapse because of disagreements over where to make the cuts.

The Dutch fiscal gap is forecast to be 4.6 percent of gross domestic product next year without extra cuts.

Under EU rules, the Netherlands - which has been one of the hard-liners in demanding that struggling euro zone countries such as Greece get their finances in order - must cut the gap to 3 percent of economic output next year. ($1 = 0.7590 euros)

(Reporting by Sara Webb; Editing by Rosalind Russell)