The show must go on

Prinsjesdag – the opening day of the new political year and the presentation of the government’s 2013 spending plans – has been a strange affair, writes editor Robin Pascoe.

Queen Beatrix, freshly removed from her traditional role as lynchpin in the formation of a new government, read out a speech written by the caretaker administration based on policies agreed by a different coalition way back in April. Her audience of 150 parliamentarians and ministers is on its way out, as are many of the policies she outlined or hinted at.

Still, the show must go on. The queen’s speech is an annual tradition and government ministries need cash to keep things going while politicians make up their mind about who is going to run the country.


But we should not forget the outgoing government has saddled us with a budget already out-of-date – a mishmash of measures thrown together in April to ensure the Netherlands meets eurozone monetary union rules.

Yet although many of those measures were ill-thought-out and will be dropped, the bottom line remains the same. If cuts are not made and taxes are not increased, the Netherlands will not reduce its budget deficit under the crucial 3% next year.

If the Netherlands wants to continue to call for a tough approach to Greece’s financial problems, it cannot be seen to be breaking the rules itself. Outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte has been clear about the need for budgetary discipline at home but his probable coalition partner Diederik Samsom is more relaxed about the 3%.

Dutch voters may have rejected anti-EU rhetoric last week but Europe will be centre stage in forming a new government. The success or failure of the Rutte-Samsom experiment is inextricably linked with the need to balance the books in 2013.

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