Dutch govt collapses over benefits scandal

THE HAGUE (AFP) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government resigned yesterday over a child benefits scandal, media reported, threatening political turmoil as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of parents were wrongly accused by Dutch authorities of fraudulently claiming child allowance, with many of them forced to pay back large amounts of money and ending up in financial ruin.

The fact that some parents were targetted for investigation by tax officials because they had dual nationality also underscored long-standing criticisms of systemic racism in the Netherlands.

Dutch media said Rutte was due to give a statement about the resignation of his four-party coalition cabinet, which comes just two months before the Netherlands is due to hold a general election on March 17.

A hard-hitting parliamentary investigation in December said civil servants cut off benefits to thousands of families wrongly accused of fraud between 2013 and 2019.

File photo shows then Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. PHOTO: AFP