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Govt crisis risks Dutch AAA rating

Reported by AAP
Monday, April 23, 2012
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The collapse of austerity talks in the Netherlands this weekend has put the country at risk of losing its top-notch AAA rating, according to analysts.

"This story is going to cost the Netherlands their triple A," said Arnold Heertje, a former political economics professor at the University of Amsterdam. "Interest rates on the bond markets will increase."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was to convene his cabinet on Monday for crisis talks after right-wing leader Geert Wilders quit make-or-break austerity talks on Saturday, saying his party rejected European Union demands.

The talks, which had been going on for seven weeks, aimed to cut some 16 billion euros ($A20.4 billion) from the budget.

They included a slight rise in Value-Added Tax (VAT), a freeze on civil servants' wages and cuts to both the health and development budgets, Dutch media reported.

After the walkout the prime minister said that snap elections were likely, a move that would put on hold the austerity package, which was aimed at steering the country back within European Union deficit targets.

The Dutch central planning bureau forecast last month that the 2013 public deficit would rise to 4.7 percent of gross domestic product under current conditions, higher than the EU deficit ceiling of 3.0 percent of GDP.

The fall of the government would be "a disaster for the economy of the Netherlands, both from the point of view of the AAA rating and the 'real economy'," Heertje said.

Sylvester Eijffinger, economics professor at the University of Tilburg, agreed: "The markets will become very nervous.

"We are following in the footsteps of France and Austria," he was quoted as saying by the ANP news agency. Both those countries were downgraded by Standard and Poor's ratings agency in January.

The Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Luxembourg are the only eurozone countries left with AAA ratings from all three major agencies.

"That is not to say that we will become like Italy in a single stroke, but what will be needed is a clear vision of how to put public finances back in order," said economist Sweder van Wijnbergen, quoted by the ANP news agency.

Others said the loss of the AAA rating would not be catastrophic.

"It's not about the rating itself, but about a country's position in relation to others in the eurozone," said Thomas Cool, a former economist with the Dutch central statistics bureau.

"The Netherlands remains one of the most reliable countries, compared with Greece or Spain," he said, referring to countries that have received multi-billion-euro bailouts from the European Union and the IMF.

23/10/2014 12:37Sydney, Australia. 23 October,2014
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