And they’re off: a six month election campaign started with the budget

euro money banknotesTuesday’s budget was a predictable good news story and the launch of a six-month long election campaign, writes DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe

So, what a surprise! We’ll all be better off in election year. If last year’s budget was all about treading water and waiting to see what the economic upturn would bring, this year’s is the coalition’s last before the general election next March. Little wonder then that the emphasis is on boosting spending power across the board and rewarding voters who have gritted their teeth through four years of crisis, cautious recovery and cuts.

A little extra in top-up benefits for the poorest families, the healthcare own risk payment gets frozen and more money for defence and public safety – all measures which can be guaranteed to generate a few positive headlines for the struggling VVDPvdA coalition.

Debate

The pre-election nature of the budget will only be emphasized in the subsequent debate in parliament, where all the opposition parties will set out their stalls for the 2017 vote.

Freezing the healthcare own risk? It should be abolished altogether, say the Socialists and the PVV. More money for education? Ministers are not doing nearly enough, D66 will claim. And you can bet that MPs from the VVD and PvdA, as their four-year partnership nears the end of its life, will also call for changes to the budget plans. Labour in particular are staring into the electoral abyss and need to recover a lot of lost ground on the left.

It all goes to show that the third Tuesday in September is more about pomp and ceremony than real substance. And I for one am a little tired of all these forecasts about the impact of the budget on the euros in our wallets. Does anyone really notice if they have 0.4% more to spend? And is that really going to encourage them to vote for the coalition parties next March? We will find out soon enough.