The Queen’s speech: “Economic recovery does not happen by itself”

POSTED: 09/19/12 1:48 PM

THE HAGUE – H.M. Queen Beatrix opened the new parliamentary year in The Hague with the traditional Troonrede. This is the complete text of the speech, addressed to the Members of the First and Second Chamber.

“The budget the government presents to you today concerns a special jubilee year in our national history. In 2013 the national celebration of 200 years of Kingdom begins. After an extremely turbulent period in our country and elsewhere in Europe, the foundations for a new government were established in 1813. Prince Willem-Frederik, the later King Willem I, issued a proclamation upon his arrival in Scheveningen. In it he spoke not only about the regained freedom, but also about the big importance of the recovery of trade and prosperity. The dignitaries that offered him shortly afterwards the government of the country, emphasized the resilience that was asked at that moment from the complete community.

Two centuries later, and in a completely different social and constitutional context, our country is again facing a challenge that requires a lot of resilience. The financial and economic crisis that is holding the world in its grasp since 2008, is hitting the Netherlands hard as well. Economic recovery does not happen by itself.

“The opening of this parliamentary year takes place in a period of cabinet-formation. The caretaker status of the current cabinet induces reticence in making new proposals. At the same time tackling the urgent problems our country and Europe are facing do not permit delay.

The economic growth lags expectations worldwide. Due to the debt crisis is some countries in the euro zone the economic crisis is deeper and more persistent that was previously foreseen. The Netherlands, with its open and internationally oriented economy, is affected especially by all of this. Large and small companies are feeling the consequences. While unemployment in our country is relatively low compared to abroad, but it is also increasing here. It is especially worrying when young people cannot find work after their schooling.

Under the current conditions it is understandable that people are worried about their job, their pension, the value of their home and the future of their children. The government is aware that it is asking important sacrifices from all citizens to make the government finances healthy and to secure future prosperity. It is realistic the assume that growth figures in the future will be lower than what we were used to in the recent past, also when the economy and consumer confidence improve. At the same time we live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world with a high level of facilities. It is good to be aware of this and from there on to keep working with power and confidence towards recovery.

The government policy focuses on manageable government finances, but also on the promotion of entrepreneurship, investment in infrastructure and improving safety and security, education and innovation. Large system changes have been established in several fields, like the formation of the national police in 2013. In education measures are taken to strengthen quality and to make it more attractive for young people to follow a vocational training.

In healthcare important steps have been made to arrive at a better quality and cost control. The government has made agreements about this with hospitals, institutions for mental healthcare, medical specialists and general practitioners. In the national government’s management efficiency is increasing through better cooperation in areas like information and communication technology, housing and staff.

When the government took office in 2010 it presented proposals for budget cuts worth €18 million. At the beginning of 2012 it appeared that drastic additional measures were necessary to keep the 2013 budget deficit manageable. The government is pleased that five parties reached an agreement this spring about a budget accord that does justice to the seriousness and the scope of the financial-economic challenges our country is facing. With this accord the parties involved make it possible for the government to contribute also in 2013 to the financial solidity and growth-oriented reforms. The deficit next year will be under the standard of 3 percent. That strengthens the confidence of financial markets in our country and it keeps the interest charges manageable.

From January 1 the retirement age goes gradually up to 67 in 2023. The increase of the high VAT-tariff per October 1 and the income freeze for civil servants salaries contribute directly to a lower budget deficit. The bank taxes will double and excessive bonuses will be heavily taxed. Changes in the WW (unemployment benefits – ed.) and the dismissal legislation will make the labor market more flexible. In the housing market the transfer tax has been structurally lowered. The budget the government presents to you also contains a proposal for paying off mortgages.

In Europe important steps have been taken to promote the stability of the monetary union and to strengthen the euro for the future. The European union is able to contribute a lot to the future growth of prosperity, wellbeing and employment for the citizens in all member states. The European cooperation, that has brought our country so much, is under pressure due to the debt crisis. A well functioning internal market and a strong and stable currency are from an economic perspective of crucial importance for all member states. For the Netherlands, that earns a large part of its national income in Europe, this is essential. That is why the government has a strong interest in the structural improvement of the monetary union and the internal market.

The Netherlands has made proposals in these areas that have found support. Together with other countries a two-track policy has been established with strong budget discipline and strengthening of the European growth–agenda. A euro commissioner is now especially charged with budget discipline and countries that do not stick to the agreements will be faced quicker with sanctions. It is important that all countries are bound by this. Countries will measure each other with regard to domestic reforms that are necessary for economic growth. Other concrete results are in the area of cheaper mobile data traffic and the arrival of a fast and affordable European system of patent protection. The latter is of great importance to innovative Dutch companies.

The big problems like driving back the national debt, the future of the euro and the affordability of healthcare good education and a fair system of social benefits will not be solved from one day to the next. Few in our country contest the need to make the government finances healthy and to keep them manageable afterwards. Many share the ideal of social cohesion and want to make an effort for it. In the government’s opinion this is an important basis for a joint approach with broad support. The involvement of unions, employers organizations and other social parties is indispensable. The same goes for provinces, municipalities and water boards. After all, other authorities are also asked to control their finances, while their role and their tasks are increasing.

In the Caribbean part of the Kingdom relatively small countries are facing big challenges. The economic crisis is felt there as well. The new constitutional structures are still young. Transparency and manageable government finances are very important for the population and for the confidence in the government. After the constitutional reform in October 2010 investments are being made in improvements on the islands of Bonaire, Statia and Saba, amongst others in hospital care, the quality of school buildings and teachers, and sewage water purification.

Working together with other countries has determined for years and years the Dutch foreign policy. Its importance increases in these times of growing international closely knit interests in all areas. Economic diplomacy is more than ever necessary to face the crisis. Joint actions are also required to strengthen human rights, to fight poverty, and to tackle climate change and environmental issues. The Netherlands plays a prominent role in the international coalition against piracy, also to protect our own merchant navy.

In the field of development cooperation the government opts for a policy of strengthening the economic structure and promoting self support. That is why the approach is concentrated on working together with a small number of partner countries and focused on areas where our country is able to contribute a lot of knowledge and experience like water management, agriculture and strengthening of the legal order. This way more concrete results are achieved for all parties involved.

In the field of peace and security it remains an urgent requirement that the international community fights against injustice and unsafety. The dramatic events in Syria underline this. In Afghanistan and other places in the world more than a one thousand Dutch men and women are working every day for legal security and a human existence. They deserve our deep respect.

The Netherlands is a strong country in social and economic respect, built on a long tradition of international entrepreneurship, hard work and solidarity between population groups and generations. At decisive moments in our history the Netherlands has shown the resilience that was already spoken about during the Kingdom’s establishment in 1813. Generations before us have proven that they are able to overcome differences under difficult circumstances for the benefit of a sensible social-economic policy. From those examples we may take strength for the future.

The 2013 budget the government presents to you today is based on the convictions that financial solidity and economic growth are closely linked. Both are necessary for a good level of facilities for the benefit of future generations. The government is looking forward to discuss this openly and constructively with you, members if the States General. You may find yourself supported in your heavy task by the knowledge that many are wishing you wisdom and pray with me for strength and God’s blessing.”

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