Prinsjesdag 2021: A sober budget from a crippled government

Photo: Rijksoverheid/Valerie Kuypers via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Rijksoverheid/Valerie Kuypers via Wikimedia Commons

The parliamentary year officially opens on Tuesday with the king’s speech from the throne and the presentation of the government’s 2022 spending plans. But this year there will be little news to grab the headlines, given that the government is acting in a caretaker capacity and the process to form a new coalition has ground to a halt.

On top of that, for the second year in a row, coronavirus has put paid to the king’s tour of The Hague in a horse-drawn coach and the traditional ‘balcony scene’ where he and the queen wave at the crowds.

The Ridderzaal or knight’s chamber, is also out of bounds because it is too small to hold the guests with proper social distancing.

One tradition has remained intact so far – the leaking of key details of the 2022 budget to the press. So an extra €1bn has been allocated to housing – but how that will be spent remains up to the next cabinet.

€6bn to €7bn will go on reducing carbon dioxide emissions in line with the Urgenda court ruling, but again, the details will be missing. Money has also been allocated to combating organised crime in the wake of the Peter R de Vries murder.


The Volkskrant points out that at the beginning of this year, it was election manifestos ‘full of dreams’ which were in the spotlight, none of which will make the king’s speech.

‘The total political stalemate has smothered all ambitions,’ the paper said in its analysis. ‘And everything which is said and done on Tuesday, from the king’s speech to the financial statement, has a very short shelf life.’

The plans that will be published on Tuesday have been drawn up by the current coalition of VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie. But by voting in favour of motions of censure against two ministers last week, ChristenUnie would appear to have left the coalition already.

The two other parties seen as potential coalition partners – GroenLinks and Labour – have both said they will not make any deals about getting elements of the budget through parliament either.


How the parties line up will become clear at the general debate on the plans,  which takes place on Wednesday and Thursday.

‘It remains stormy times in The Hague,’ broadcaster NOS said in its analysis. ‘The formation process has stranded, more and more ministers are being culled and the relationship between the main players is worsening.’

Today’s sums, says RTL Nieuws commentator Frits Wester, could be filled in with a pencil. ‘And as soon as there is a new cabinet, they will erase them and start again,’ he said.

‘But even if the cabinet is limited in its choices, ministers do have to draw up spending plans. That is established in law. And by the third Tuesday in September, the outgoings for next year have to be published.’

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