Prime minister Mark Rutte said on Friday afternoon it is too soon to cheer about the news the Dutch budget deficit has fallen to 2.9%.
‘This is purely bookkeeping and does not alter the need to make spending cuts,’ the Telegraaf reports Rutte as saying. ‘Let us not congratulate ourselves just yet.’
The 2.9% figure, which is below the EU limit of 3%, was published by the central statistics office CBS on Friday morning. The CBS said the improvement was mainly thanks to a windfall from the auction of telecom networks.
The government currently has a budget surplus of €4.5bn, the first time it has been in credit since the fourth quarter of 2008.
The nationalisation of financial services group SNS Reaal also had a small effect on bringing down the deficit, the CBS said. Nationalising the group cost the government €3.7bn, with a further €6bn in loans.
Because the value of SNS Reaal is higher than the nationalisation price and the capital brings in a decent return, under EU monetary rules this makes the group an investment rather than a liability.
It is not expected that the fall in the budget deficit will affect the forecast of an above 3% deficit for 2014 or the €6bn extra in spending cuts the government is currently trying to find.