Dutch government resigns over childcare subsidies scandal

Dutch government was set to collectively resign on Friday over years of mismanagement of childcare subsidies, MPs said cited by Reuters. PM Mark Rutte was to inform King Willem-Alexander of the decision and hold a press conference during which he was expected to outline how the government will manage the emergency response to the pandemic while in caretaker status.

A new cabinet will be formed after parliamentary elections that had already been set for 17 March.

#The decision follows a parliamentary inquiry last month that found bureaucrats at the tax service, with government oversight, had driven thousands of families to financial ruin with wrongful accusations of fraud. The inquiry report said around 10,000 families had been wrongfully forced to repay tens of thousands of euros of subsidies, in some cases leading to unemployment, bankruptcies and divorces. It described such mismanagement over a decade as an “unprecedented injustice”.

Many of the families were targeted based on their ethnic origin or dual nationality, the tax office said last year. Orlando Kadir, an attorney representing around 600 families, told Dutch radio that people had been targeted “as a result of ethnic profiling by bureaucrats who picked out their foreign-looking names.”

Even though public support for the government’s Covid-19 measures has dipped sharply in recent weeks during a tough lockdown, Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is still riding high in public opinion polls. His VVD is projected to take just under 30% of the vote in March parliamentary elections, more than twice that seen going to the second-placed PVV, the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders.

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