Speech from the Throne 201021 september 2010
The Hague, 21 September 2010
Members of the States General,
Stable governance is essential if we are to take the vigorous measures necessary to ensure economic recovery. Intensive efforts to form a new government have been under way since the parliamentary elections on 9 June. Pending the formation of a new government, it is appropriate for the present government to exercise restraint in making policy proposals for the coming year.
The impact of the financial and economic crisis will be felt worldwide for a long time to come. A far-reaching package of spending cuts is now needed to improve our country's position in both the short and the long term. Measures for the period after 2011 will of course have to be prepared by the new government.
A precondition for sustained development and prosperity is a stable budgetary policy. Additional proposals to reduce the annual budget deficit are unavoidable. The government has already deployed the funds necessary to stimulate the economy. But this policy cannot continue unchanged. As a result of the stimulus measures and falling tax revenue, the budget deficit has risen sharply. The national debt and the deficit are rising to levels that are unsustainable in the long term.
Structural financial measures must be taken now. To reduce the high budget deficit, the government is putting forward proposals to improve the health of the national budget in the long run. The proposals also satisfy the conditions of the European Stability and Growth Pact, by which our country is bound. The government's choices are informed above all by the desire and the necessity to reduce public spending.
The government will continue its efforts to reduce unemployment, even though it has not risen to the same levels as in neighbouring countries. In these difficult times, it is important to offer hope to all those living in our country by pursuing a policy aimed at preserving jobs and strengthening the economy. In the long run, demographic ageing will lead to a shrinking labour market. Ongoing measures are required to increase labour participation, improve employability and promote labour mobility.
The Netherlands' prosperity largely depends on supplying goods and services to other countries. In the coming years it will have to contend with a substantial increase in export market competition. Owing to its relatively high wage costs, it will have to continue its efforts to withstand competition by delivering innovative products and high-quality services. This will require wage moderation.
A strong and stable financial sector is vital to our society and our internationally operating companies. It is therefore essential to restore public trust in the financial sector. Internationally, steps have already been taken to tighten up supervision. For example, proposals are being prepared to improve cooperation among supervisory authorities and to strengthen institutions' reserves. The Dutch financial sector has recognised its responsibility by drawing up the Banking Code. Anchoring it in the law, together with the introduction of more stringent capital requirements and mandatory remuneration principles, will lay a firm basis for restoring society's trust. A separate structure will be created for managing financial institutions that have been taken over by the state.
The Dutch pension system is robust compared with those in other countries. But measures need to be taken because rising life expectancy is putting a strain on pensions. To guarantee future generations a good pension when they retire, it is only reasonable to raise the retirement age. Employers and employees have already expressed their willingness to work together to achieve this. The economic crisis, too, has serious consequences for the value of our pension assets. The government wants existing legislation to be enforced to restore lasting trust.
It is not just financial and economic developments that have a decisive impact on society. Developments within society likewise affect its quality. Social cohesion often used to be taken for granted in the Netherlands, but in recent years we have realised that it is not a given. Even in the past, constant efforts were required to keep conflicts and differences of opinion under control. This is even more necessary today. Providing a counter-voice is the task not only of the government, but also of individuals and the many civil society organisations in our country. A harmonious society is built on respect, tolerance and common courtesy. It requires give and take, mutual understanding, and also the ability to adapt. This is a responsibility we all share.
Rising life expectancy is a great boon. At the same time, it presents society with fresh challenges. For instance, a first-rate education system, high-quality health care, a liveable environment and a safe society all have to be paid for. The watchwords are quality and accessibility.
Improving the standard of education has always been a government priority. And there is still a great deal to do. As well as enabling people to acquire knowledge, education needs to be aligned with business and the job market. The Innovation Platform's final report has proposed ways in which the Netherlands could climb from tenth place into the top five on the list of knowledge economies. To make our country a genuine knowledge society, good education and research are essential. That is why the budget presented today spares education. It also calls on business to invest more in research and development.
Our country enjoys high-quality health care, which is readily accessible to all. However, costs have risen sharply in recent years, partly in the face of growing demand for care. This is the result of continuing advances in technology and the increase in life expectancy. Measures will be taken to contain costs, so that hospital care can be made even more efficient.
To restore confidence in the housing market and make it accessible again, it is necessary to increase investment and promote movement up the housing ladder. The government has taken measures to stimulate housing construction. This is because the number of households is increasing, as well as the population. In the Randstad conurbation, in particular, there is still a high demand for good, affordable housing. Specific problems in areas with a shrinking population also require attention. The government will improve mobility by ensuring that infrastructural problems are tackled more quickly. Targeted measures will ensure that the Netherlands is properly protected against flooding. Sufficient fresh water must also remain available, even in times of drought.
For many years, public safety and security policy has focused on tackling anti-social behaviour and crime, and also on making long-term improvements in the quality of the living environment in residential areas. The community-based approach remains a good instrument for achieving this goal, and should be implemented in cooperation with the municipal authorities, individuals and housing associations. Youth policy is based on the experience that prevention pays. All children must be given equal opportunities to develop their potential. Effective measures are needed to reduce school drop-out rates. Actively protecting society and the public against intimidation, discrimination and violence remains a top government priority.
The Netherlands is the second biggest exporter of agricultural and horticultural products. The innovative and sustainable nature of our agricultural sector is highly regarded worldwide. Our country can make a significant contribution to global food security by continuing its efforts to improve present technologies. The government will create the conditions for sustainable production methods.
The financial and economic crisis has once again highlighted how closely the Netherlands is entwined with the world around us. That Europe can operate effectively in difficult times is reason for confidence. And it is not just in the financial and economic fields that the European Union is proving its worth. Important steps are also being taken in the field of sustainability. In the course of the next year, for instance, the EU will tighten up emission standards for motor vehicles.
Reducing global poverty, promoting our planet's sustainability, strengthening human rights, and enhancing international peace and security occupy a central place in talks with our partners and international organisations. This was reflected in the Netherlands' stance at the recent G20 and European summits.
Stability, peace and good governance are furthered by working together in international organisations such as the European Union, NATO and the United Nations. Our well-equipped security and defence organisation makes an important contribution. The primary task of our armed forces is to safeguard the security of our own territory and that of our allies. The Netherlands has also accepted the task of contributing to international peace missions and crisis management operations. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who have served in Afghanistan over the past eight years, especially in the province of Uruzgan, to help its people build a better future. We also thank those who are now responsible for ensuring that the last remaining troops return safely, with all their equipment. We extend our deepest sympathy to those who have been injured while carrying out their duties. And we will continue to feel profound respect for those who have given their lives. They - and their loved ones - will remain in our thoughts. We can all be proud of what has been achieved in Afghanistan in very difficult conditions.
Preparations have been made to implement constitutional changes in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands Antilles will cease to exist as a country within the Kingdom. Curaçao and St Maarten will both acquire country status. The islands of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba will become public bodies forming part of the Dutch polity. Curaçao and St Maarten can continue to count on the government's support in the areas of law enforcement and good governance.
Members of the States General,
In anticipation of the formation of a new government, you are preparing to hear proposals in many policy areas. You will be closely involved in the deliberations and decision-making. You will certainly be asked to devote a great deal of attention to the weighty decisions required to surmount our economic and social problems. In discharging your duties, you may feel supported in the knowledge that many are wishing you wisdom and join me in praying for strength and God's blessing upon you.