King Willem-Alexander's Budget Day speech: full text
That our country is now in a significantly better position than a few years ago and can again participate in the leading group in Europe, is a collective achievement. Political differences were bridged and different social interests were united. Never before were so many great reforms put into motion at once, often with the support of opposition parties and civil society organizations. That happened in healthcare and education, on the labor market ad the housing market, and in the state pension, the energy sector and the financial sector. In that much was asked of everyone. Many made financial sacrifices and a large demand was made for the willingness to accept changes in everyday life. Without the perseverance, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of the Dutch population, the result would have been less positive.For several years the Dutch economy has been stable again. The expected growth for 2017 amounts to, despite the Brexit, 1.7 percent. The housing market is recovering and cost increases in healthcare are limited. The budget deficit is dropping to 0.5 percent next year and the national debt is falling rapidly towards 60 percent of our national income. With that there is again room to move. Fewer people are drowning in mortgage, making moving easier. Tenants are getting more financial space with an increase in the rent allowance. Entrepreneurs who have confidence in the future, invest more in workers and in the renewal of their business. And families get more to spend. More and more people are finding work again. After 2014 more than 225 thousand new jobs were created in our country. Step by Step unemployment is being reduced to 5.8 percent. It is positive that more job seekers over 45 years old find jobs. The number of young people with a job is at the highest level in seven years. The agreements with employers on more jobs for people with occupational disabilities are energetically held. The labor force is growing as more and more Dutch actively want to and can participate in the labor market. This means that the number of unemployed is declining more slowly than hoped. Therefore, tackling unemployment - especially long-term unemployment - remains a high priority. With social partners the government agreed on a number of specific measures. Thus the rules for seasonal workers will be relaxed and unemployed people over 50 will get intensive support in finding work. The minimum wage from age 21 will be abolished in two steps, because young people deserve a full wage. Employers will receive compensation to counteract negative effects on employment. The risks and uncertainties of our open and internationally orientated economy are mainly from abroad. Lower growth in major emerging markets like China and Brazil have an impact on us. There are new uncertainties in Europe due to the announced Brexit, which directly affect the Netherlands. The UK is an important trading partner and the Brexit will cost jobs in our country. The aim of the government is that economic relations remain strong. Cooperation is essential in Europe for the open Dutch economy. The Netherlands continues to focus on the European Union's growth and jobs. A stable euro, a strong and effective banking union and a strong and fair internal European market, with equal pay for equal work in the same place, are of direct interest to our country. The positive financial-economic developments slowly but surely make room for growth of incomes and for targeted investments in the future. It is gratifying that the purchasing power is growing again this year and next year for workers the elderly and people on benefits. The government is again ensuring a balanced spending power distribution. The care allowance is increasing. With a boost of 200 million euros, we are lowering the threshold for young parents to use childcare, making it easier to combine work and family. It is important that children at risk of growing up in poverty can participate in school trips, can become member of a sports club and have the opportunity to go to music lessons. For this 100 million euros is available. Proposed cuts in long-term elderly and disabled care the size of half a billion euros are scrapped. In schools, extra money is available to promote equal opportunities. The allowance for specific school fees in secondary vocational education, such as clothing, tools and software, is going up. Large investments are needed in energy, sustainability, accessibility and education. The SMEs too should be able to get funding for new growth. The government will make proposals to better support such investments where needed. Investing in the future also means addressing problems as they occur in the earthquake zone in the province of Groningen. The consequences are far-reaching and the government will work with all affected Groningen residents for solutions. By halving the gas extraction compared to 2012 and strengthening hoes and other buildings, safety risks are being limited. The effects of climate change require substantial investments and innovations in renewable energy sources such as wind, water and sunlight. Agreements on an affordable and clean energy supply are set out in the Energy Agreement. This development is not only good for the environment, but also creates jobs and opportunities for Dutch businesses. Because of the security situation, nearby and elsewhere in the world, the government is in 2017 again drawing extra money for the armed forces, the police, the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor. Since 2014 the defense budget has been increasing step wise, structurally rising to 870 million euros in 2020. The crime rate in the Netherlands is declining steadily and the government continues to invest in improving safety. The budget for 2016 structurally makes for security an amount of 250 million euros available. From 2017 there is a structural 450 million euros. This allows the people who work every day for our safety more space for the performance of their duties: from the local policemen to the special counterterrorism units, from the prosecutor to the jailer. In the year behind us, the world was again shaken by horrible jihadist attacks, which caused untold grief and human suffering. Among others, France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey were hit hard. We can not and will not allow in any way that terrorists threaten our freedom, our security and our democratic values. The Action Program Integrated Approach Jihadism has a mix of preventative and repressive measures. The government wants to eliminate the breeding ground for radicalization in the Netherlands, including by promoting active citizenship in schools. Leaving will become more difficult for foreign rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war and their benefits are stopped. They are prosecuted and risk revocation of Dutch citizenship after a conviction. Cooperation in Europe in the fight against terrorism is crucial. Within the European Union, our country works intensively to improve the exchange of information between European intelligence and investigative service, joint border management, tackling financial flows and improving cyber security. Outside Europe, the Netherlands continues with military, humanitarian and political means, to contribute to the fight against ISIS in the hotbeds Syria and Iraq. Our soldiers and aid workers there and elsewhere in the world perform, in difficult conditions, important work in the service of international stability and people in distress. In close cooperation with the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom, the government successfully conducted a campaign for temporary membership to the United Nations Security Council. Reform of the united Nations i an important issue for the government. In terms of content, the priority is an integrated approach to peace, security and development in conflict prevention and the protection of civilians. War and terror drive innocent people from their homes, facing an uncertain future. During the Dutch Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2017, much was started to bring the flow of asylum seekers from Syria and other vulnerable countries under control. That policy is based on three pillars: elimination of reasons to flee by improving living conditions and combating violence on the spot, reception in own region, and combating smuggling through perilous sea routes. Among other things, the Netherlands is helping with 260 million euros for improving reception in the region. In March 2016 agreements were made with the Turkish government to stem the flow of asylum seekers and better regulate it. The number of people drowning in a horrible way on makeshift crossings between turkey and Greece and the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe, was so decreased substantially. Continued implementation of these agreements demand the necessary attention in the coming period. The Netherlands is a country that offers everyone that qualifies for it, an opportunity to integrate into our society and for everyone that lives here, to feel at home. Asylum seekers who come to the Netherlands are offered decent but austere reception. Last year, that succeeded thanks to the efforts of municipalities, aid agencies and many volunteers. Those who want to build a future in the Netherlands, must be willing to learn the language and to make an active contribution. We expect everyone to connect consciously and actively to our way of life. The mandatory participation declaration enters into force in 2017. Participation and integration will be encourage by, among other things, giving asylum seekers the opportunity to do volunteer work. It suits the character of the Netherlands that in many neighborhoods and municipalities, all kinds of private initiatives are taken to involve asylum seekers in society. At the same time it makes sense that society is concerned about the arrival of large groups of refugees. We wonder if the differences in culture and values are not too big and facilities will not be put under too much pressure. The Netherlands long fought for a number of democratic values, including the separation of church and state, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. In our country men and women are equal before the law and we make no distinction as to race, creed or sexual orientation. Anyone who wants t live in our country, should respect and comply to these values. No one is asked to deny their own origin or culture, but constitutionally defined standards can not be questioned and we will crack down against intimidation and violence. Members of the States General, The Netherlands is a strong country in an unstable world. In the last few years joint results were achieved that make that we can look forward with confidence. It is not wise to underestimate the difficulties and uncertainties the Netherlands is facing internationally. But history teaches us that "lasting progress' is possible by working together for solutions, at home and with our international partners. It also draws your work during the parliamentary year which starts today. You may be supported by the knowledge that many are wishing you wisdom and with me are praying God's blessings for you.