As the readers of this blog know already, here in the Netherlands we have a minority government that has to lean on support of the PVV to survive. With the end result that we have a divided caretaker government that steers on a day-to-day basis, and is unable to steer on long-term policy goals or to achieve fundamental changes.
As a result we see the current government and in particular our Minister of Finance, Jan Cees de Jager, surfing the waves of public sentiment rather than those of solid government. De Jager time and again has to account for the public sentiment and does so in particular with respect to todays political and macro-economic European crisis. He continues to stress that private entities will have to pay along to save Greece. And he says: there will be no more money going to Greece, unless this condition is fulfilled.
Well, this tough policy stance, copied from the Germans, is not bringing us in Europe or the Netherlands anywhere. All it does is prolong the crisis, as we have seen last week in all the market turbulence about Italy and the stress tresting of banks. So perhaps de Jager will slowly retreat. But still we can imagine some more populist talk to enter the European policy arena. Because the populist PVV is still banging the drum that no more money should go to Greece.
It is interesting to analyze the position of de Jager, using some of the insights of former President of the central bank: Nout Wellink. Just two weeks ago, on the day of his departure from the central bank, a book was published with the title 'Wellink talking'. And in it Wellink outlines that at some point in time, bad collateral of banks may result in losses for the ECB and thus also hit the Dutch tax payer. It is telling and striking that only very few people in the Netherlands realize that our 'tough talk' with respect to the Greek situation is just for show. The real costs of this crisis may well end up at the Dutch tax payer via the back door of the ECB.
Although by now I should have gotten used to the 'pragmatic', visionless way in which our government operates, I still remain amazed at the Ostrich policy that our Ministry of Finance uses in dealing with the EU-crisis. If indeed at some point in time the central banks or bankers were to blame for a crisis, now is the time that we can fully blame politicians for not deciding, for bowing towards populists and for a complete lack of leadership.