Today Highlight: 01.09.2007

Netherlands: VAT tax rate to increase. Just thinking that 5% is frowned upon here in Japan (or Malaysia) already,  20%?

VAT to rise to 20% in 2008
Friday 31 August 2007

The basic VAT tax rate is set to rise from 19% to 20% in the September budget, the Volkskrant and Telegraaf report on Friday. The increase is the most important element of the 2008 budget which has been leaked so far.
Bos declined to go into details but sources say the budget includes measures to maintain the spending power of people on the lowest incomes. But other income groups will have between 0.25% and 0.5% less disposable cash next year. Taxes on petrol, tobacco and alcohol are set to increase to help reduce the budget deficit.
A number of ministries face spending cuts but the education and defence departments will be spared, news agency ANP reported.

Norway: some little diplomatic scene

Norway to cut aid to Ethiopia
First published: 30 Aug 2007, 15:39

Ethiopia’s decision to expel six of nine Norwegian diplomats from the country means Ethiopia will lose around NOK 30 million in Norwegian development aid.
“This isn’t a punishment, but a consequence of the fact that so many people at the Norwegian Embassy are being kicked out,” Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told newspaper Aftenposten. That will leave a staffing shortage at the embassy, that will hinder its ability to handle foreign aid.
One of the diplomats’ most important jobs involved monitoring the use of aid funds that are sent through the embassy. The total amounts to around NOK 100 million (about USD 16 million) this year alone.

Sweden: healthcare…

Swedes go abroad for medical care
Published: 31st August 2007 09:04 CET

Swedes are increasingly looking abroad for medical treatment, according to new statistics.
Some 2,000 people had planned treatment abroad in 2006, compared to only 900 the year before, according to Sveriges Radio. When the scheme to fund non-emergency treatment abroad was introduced in 2004, only 150 people were granted funding.
Dental work was the most popular kind of treatment to undergo abroad, followed by treatment for muscle and joint problems. Finland was the most popular country for treatment. Germany was popular for specialist care. Spain, Portugal and the Baltic states were the most common destinations for dentistry.

Finland: healthcare too…

Waiting Room Lines Concern Doctors at Maria Hospital
Published 30.08.2007, 10.03

According to the doctors, labour shortages are behind the problem. Patients often have to wait 3 to 8 hours to see a doctor. During peak times, some patients have been forced to wait 10 to 14 hours. Other patients have been treated in corridors when bed space hits full-capacity.

Denmark: wow, it is very thoughtful of them…

City grants addicts shelter

Health officials have created a facility for drug addicts to take their methadone.
Despite protests from residents of the Vesterbro neighbourhood, city officials decided Thursday to create a safe ‘health room’, where drug can take their daily dose of methadone in a clean environment. 
The facility is not the same as the ‘safe injection rooms’ which Switzerland and other countries have created for addicts. Nurses on staff will insure, for example, that users do not take heroin. Instead, the facility is intended to provide a safe, clean place for addicts to take their medically prescribed dose of methadone.
Health officials agree, however, that the facility is a first step in addressing the city’s drug problem. Some 275 people died of drug-related causes in 2005. In addition, Copenhagen’s Vesterbro neighbourhood is littered with thousands of syringes that addicts discard in alleyways and entryways.
Although the new health room will not put an end to the problem of syringes left on the street, the facility’s director, Michael Lodberg Olsen, said the facility provided ‘a more dignified place’ for users.
‘They will still be fixing on the street, but at least they will have a place to use the bathroom,’ he said.

Germany: No thanks to skilled immigrant? Well, if it is true, I can kiss my job application at Infineon or Qimonda goodbye…

Skilled Immigrants? No Thanks
August 29, 2007

Germany is lagging behind other major industrialized countries in its efforts to attract skilled workers. While other nations see highly qualified immigrants as a benefit, Germany regards them more as a threat — and is setting the hurdles as high as it can.

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