Queen's Speech: Hard times ahead, but Netherlands well placed to recover

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The Netherlands is well positioned to recover from the global downturn, but only if it accepts wide-ranging budget cuts, the government said as it outlined its legislative programme for the year.

The first Queen’s Speech to be penned by prime minister Mark Rutte contained a raft of contentious measures, including raising the pension age to 67 and cuts to the welfare budget.

Interest payments on the national debt are forecast to total £10.5bn in the coming year and finance minister Jan Kees de Jager warned of a “tough year” ahead for many people.

Delivering the annual Queen’s Speech, Queen Beatrix said: “Our country is going through difficult economic times. Recent years have seen high levels of unemployment and business failures.

“We must draw confidence in these times, but confidence is not enough. The debt crisis can affect us too. We are extra vulnerable.

“The cuts will affect everyone. But our strength lies in our population of 16 million. They require a small, powerful government. Scaling back bureaucracy creates opportunities for growth.”

Also in the speech were policies to create a national police force to tackle organised crime, an extra E15bn investment in healthcare - though the government views such spending as “unsustainable in the long term” - and an emphasis in foreign policy on promoting democracy and human rights.

On the controversial plans to raise the pension age, the Queen said: “In view of the fact that the average person is living longer, it is logical that we should work longer… people ought to do as much work as they are capable of.”

And in a nod to the Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders, which is not in the coalition but drew up a ‘toleration agreement’ to support its key policies, she said: “Migrants will be expected to provide for their own livelihood and abide by the laws and values of this country.”

However, there was no hint of a concession to the PVV’s more hardline policies, such as expelling migrants who commit crimes from the country, and the prime minister reiterated his opposition to expelling Greece from the Euro, something the PVV has repeatedly called for.

The speech concluded: “The package of cuts that the government is putting forward is wide-ranging. But the Netherlands is in a relatively good position and the cuts are designed to safeguard what we have.”

Source: De Volkskrant: Eerste Troonrede van Rutte: Het wordt moeilijk, maar we houden moed
Photo by Roel Wijnants

Photograph reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.
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