H.M. Queen Beatrix speech: “The increasing economic and social insecurities put our stamina to the test”

POSTED: 09/21/11 12:42 PM

H.M. Queen beatrix opened the Dutch parliamentary year yesterday with the traditional Queen’s Speech, the Troonrede. This is the text:

“Our country is experiencing difficult economic times. Despite this crisis massive unemployment and a strong increase of bankruptcies have been prevented during the past couple of years. Our economy and our labor market have shown resilience. We may take confidence from this for the future. But confidence alone is not enough.
The Netherlands’ starting position is positive, but due to the collapse of the global trade the economic growth will be less than expected next year. The debt crisis in Europe could also affect our economy. Because the Netherlands strongly depends on foreign trade we are vulnerable. It is understandable that the international developments and the speed with which they occur, often trigger feelings of insecurity.
From our ambition to safeguard the future prosperity, the government envisions an approach that is based on two related choices: healthy government finances and strengthening of the economic growth potential. That relationship is the basis for all proposals that will be put to you during this parliamentary year.
The serious debt issue in some European countries shows that large and longlasting deficits are a threat to prosperity. That is why managing the government finances and a low national debt are necessary. The year ahead of us will be a year of far-reaching austerity measures that will affect all Dutch people. The government is however also aware that a solid budget has to go hand in hand with reform that strenghtens the growth potential of the Dutch economy.
Based on this vision the government will tackle the problems of today and create the opportunities for tomorrow. She is doing this in the firm conviction that the more than 16 million inhabitants we have are the strength of the Netherlands. That requires a small and decisive government that gives citizens and companies more space. This is the reason why the government comes with proposals to diminish the number of government rules and to simplify procedures, in order to stimulate creativity and innovation. Driving back bureaucracy offers people in public service more opportunities to use their professional skills.
A government that enables individuals to develop themselves contributes to social cohesion. The government pursues an immigration and integration policy that focuses on strenghtening the mutual involvement in the society. This means that migrants are expected to be able to support themselves and that they are expected to respect our country’s laws and the values that unite us.
The €18 billion budget cuts will not go unnoticed by anybody. For practically everybody the purchasing power decreases next year. Many facilities will face budget cuts. The government’s philosophy is that people do not benefit from dependency. This is why she pursues a policy that stimulates financial independence and social involvement. However, the government will spare, citizens who are unable to support themselves due to illness or limitation as much as possible.

The government looks at itself in the first place and at other authorities for budget cuts. There are already less ministries and the number of civil servants and government buildings will decrease significantly in the coming years. In the provinces and the municipalities we will see a similar trend. There are also proposals to decrease the number of administrators on all levels. Where possible and useful the government will transfer tasks to municipalities. Examples are youth care and the regulation for sheltered workshops. This way individual needs are better addressed and at the same time money is saved.
The small and decisive administration the government envisions is of crucial importance for the country’s growth potential. A society that stimulates people and businesses to get moving and to get the best out of themselves does not go together with a government that gets in the way; it needs a government that paves the way. This happens for instance by bringing together entrepreneurship and science in ten top sectors that have an excellent starting position in the global market place. This applies among others to our know-how in the field of water, energy and the high-quality food and agricultural sector. With these we are able to contribute to a solution for complex issues like climate change and scarcity of resources, while we strengthen our economy at the same time.
A properly functioning internal European market and a stable euro are essential for the economic goals of the government’s policy. People must be able to rely on the value of their savings and their pensions. For this reason the government has invested heavily during the past years in the stability of the Dutch banking and insurance sector. Now the government is asking this sector for a contribution in the form of a banking tax from 2012.
It is obvious that future economic growth is closely related to our ability to keep learning. Good education is fundamental for our country’s competitive position and it gives people the opportunity to develop their talents. This is why the government wants to improve the quality of education. In primary and secondary education terachers and students are encouraged to keep developing themselves and to achieve bettere results. With that goal in mind the requirements for teacher-training will be enhanced and students will be tested based on national standards. To be able to reward good functioning, the results of students and teachers must be transparent. Teachers must be able to concentrate on teaching in their field of expertise. The government makes proposals for this.
The contribution for students in higher education will go up. The revenue will be invested in higher quality and more intensive education programs. The government will make agreements with universities and colleges about the concentration of training programs, stimulating excellence in research and a better connection with the labor market. The latter is also necessary for secondary vocational training where the focus must be on craftmanship.
Good education is crucial for the strength of our society. The government is aware that it has a core task in this field. This also applies to facilities like security, care and social security. In these fields structural improvements are also necessary.
Security is a basic social need. The formation of a national police is necessary to be able to act more decisively against criminality. The government focuses especially on crimes that have far-reraching consequences for the victim and the socieity. It applies among others to child abuse, and store and street robberies. Organized crime will also be tackled more decisively, with a focus on combating human trafficking, drugs criminality and money laundering. The position of the victim improves; among others it will be possible to attach a supect’s property in an early stage to cover damages.
Solidarity between old and young, healthy and ill are central in the Dutch healthcare system. The government wants this to remain so and will spend more during this governning term than €15 billion on healthcare, in spite of the enormous austerity measures it is faced with. Such an increase in expenditures is not sustainable in the long term. Without measures premiums will become unaffordable and an irresponsible large part of government revenue will go to healthcare. The government finds it necessary to make the system more future-resistant. For this reason an agreement has been made with hospitals, specialists and healthcare insurers about payment per performed treatment and about a slower growth of healthcare expenditures. It will also be made possible for insurers and hospitals to negotiate freely about a larger part of the supply of care.
The government invests in quality improvement in the field of elderly-care. The rights of residents in care-institutions will be anchored in a new law. The wishes of the elderly about the way they want to live their lives is central in this law.
The appeal on the person-related budget is booming in such a way that the government considers it irresponsible to continue with it in its present form,. People with an indication for a stay in a care-institution keep the possibility to organize their own care. Obviously good quality care remains available for people without a stay-indication.
In the fields of welfare and old age facilities, measures are also required to maintain good basic facilities. The government wants to pursue a labor market policy based on the principle of work above social benefits. Given the fact that people on average live longer it is logical that we all work longer as well. The government aims to discuss during this parliamentary year a proposal to increase the AOW-age (for old age pensions – ed.). Next to that it remains necessary to promote together with the social partners the relationship between the AOW and supplementary pensions.
The government gives municipalities more possibilities to get people to work in a regular job and to use budgets for re-integration more effectively. This is why the regulations for the Wajong, the sheltered workshops and the Law Work and Social Benefits will be merged into one new regulation called Working Based on Ability. For young people who are completely and permanently disabled for work nothing changes. This also applies to those who are working in a sheltered workshop with the most serious indication.
To maintain social support for our social system the government will issue more severe punishments to people who commit fraud with social benefits. This also applies to companies that do not comply with regulations for labor conditions.
The government is very much aware of the Dutch economy’s open character. The increasing international interwovenness between people and countries and the shifts in global relationships require an active attitude in the world. The economic interests of our country worldwide are very large. The government wants to put a stronger focus on it in the full width of the foreign policy. She does this for instance by stimulating economic diplomacy and to pay more attention to opportunities for our business community in the context of development aid. The Netherlands sticks to its obligations in the field of development aid and international obligations.
An important objective of the foreign policy is the promotion of democracy and human rights, and of stability and peace in the world. The Dutch men and women who devote themselves to this cause in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world deserve our large support and appreciation.
Members of the States-General,
The current economic situation demands measures. The package of austerity measures the government presents to you is extensive. The proposals affect the purchasing power of all Dutch people. The increasing economic and social insecurities put our stamina to the test.
Still there is reason for optimism, because the starting position of our country remains relatively good. The measures the government presents are designed to safeguard our prosperity. The government appeals to everyone to contribute to this. An appeal to build together on a stronger society and a stronger economy during this difficult period is one of our country’s best traditions. In this we feel a close connection with the other countries of the Kingdom and with the Caribbean islands that are a part of our policy since last year.
You, members of the States-General, have a special responsibility for all of this. The government is looking forward to an intense and open exchange of ideas andd wants to work together with you to find solutions that have broad support. You may feel yourself supported in your heavy task knowing that many are wishing you wisdom and pray with me for you for strength and God’s blessing.”

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