All eyes on today’s pre-election budget

(Special edition of available by email at 1900)
The government will present its annual budget for 2007 in The Hague this afternoon, just nine weeks before the general election. Many observers believe it is inevitable that the parties currently in power will use the occasion to win votes.

And despite stringent efforts to keep the budget under wraps, a number of key points have leaked out.
This is the first time in some 50 years that the government has not circulated the budget under embargo to the press, MPs, trade unions, employers organisations and NGOs to allow them to prepare stories and reactions ahead of the formal presentation. After turning a blind eye to media leaks for a number of years, the government decided that these have reached such proportions that they can no longer issue advance copies of the budget. Nevertheless, various newspapers reported this weekend that the cabinet is to boost spending power for the average citizen by 1% next year and expects the economy to grow by 3%. The budget will also announce plans to cut unemployment benefit premiums, reduce pre-school childcare costs and increase child benefits. The number of officially unemployed people is forecast to fall from 400,000 to 340,000, the papers say.
Although the election takes place in November, it is likely to be several months before a coalition government is in place. The current cabinet will continue to run the country in the meantime.

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