What to expect from Budget Day today
Today is the last Budget Day for the departing Rutte II cabinet. In tradition and ceremony, the day is expected to look like every other Budget Day, with politicians decked out in fancy hats, the Royals arriving at the Ridderzaal in The Hague in a carriage and the famous balcony scene after the throne speech. But given the current VVD and PvdA government's departing status, no big news is expected in the budget. Big changes are left up to the new government.
On Budget Day, the government presents its plans for the next year, as well as the current stance of the Dutch economy and public finances in general. They are all contained in the King's throne speech. The expectation is also that King Willem-Alexander's throne speech will primarily look back on the past years, according to the Telegraaf. The devastation on Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma, and the fact that Hurricane Maria is expected to pass close by Saba and Sint Eustatius during the course of the morning, may also get some attention.
According to the Telegraaf, the schedule for Budget Day 2017 looks as such: At 12:45 p.m. all invitees are expected to be present in the Ridderzaal and the Royal procession will leave from the Noordeinde Palace. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will use the Glass Carriage again this year, as the Golden Coach is still undergoing a thorough restoration. At 1:00 p.m. the chairman of the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, will open the meeting.
At 1:15 p.m. the Royal procession will arrive at the Ridderzaal, and King Willem-Alexander will give his throne speech, revealing the secrets in the budget that hadn't leaked to the press over the past weeks. At 1:50 p.m. the Royal procession will return to the Noordeinde Palace for the traditional balcony scene. Later in the day, at 3:00 p.m. Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem will present the suitcase containing next year's budget to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament.
Normally, the Tweede Kamer debates the government's plans and budget during the two days after Budget Day. But this year, things are a bit different, according to NOS. The departing VVD and PvdA cabinet is only tending to the ongoing matters that are necessary to keep the country going, and not making any new plans. That is up to the new cabinet - which the VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie are currently negotiating forming together. This means that very few, if any, new plans will be revealed today. The Tweede Kamer will wait to debate next year's plans until after the new cabinet presents its government agreement.
The reason Budget Day is being held today, and not postponed until the new government takes over, is because it says so in Dutch law. Article 65 states that the government has to disclose its plans for the coming year on the third Tuesday of September.
For that reason, the departing cabinet made a budget for next year. The expectation is that they put money into the holes that always need it, like public transit, the police, and infrastructure, according to the broadcaster. As happens every year, a number of details about the budget already leaked to the press. So far we know that the budget consists of 270 billion euros. Primary school teachers will receive 270 million euros for salary increases. Nursing care will receive an additional 435 million euros annually from 2018. In the next four years, another 130 million euros will be added to that amount. The government is putting 75 million euros aside for the Tax Authority to deal with urgent problems, like its outdated IT systems. On average, the Dutch will see their purchasing power increase by 0.6 percent and unemployment will fall to 390 thousand people. The budget surplus is increasing to 0.8 percent of gross domestic product and economic growth is 2.5 percent.
The budget is not set in stone yet. The new government will present its own plans for the country, with a corresponding financial image, after it is formed. CDA leader Sybrand Buma said that the government agreement will have "a lot of changes", compared to the budget the departing cabinet is presenting today, according to NOS. ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers also expects changes. After the government agreement is presented, the Tweede Kamer will debate it. Canceling the traditional budget debate over the next two days, means that the Tweede Kamer won't have to debate the plans for next year twice.