Prinsjesdag (little prince’s day) is the day when the current monarch (at this point in time: King Willem-Alexander) reads ‘de Troonrede’ (speech from the throne). This speech includes all the main plans and decisions made by the government policy for the coming parliamentary session. The speech is given in ‘de Ridderzaal’ (Knight’s hall) in Den Haag (The Hague) at 12:30 on the third Tuesday of September. The people of the Dutch Senate, House of Representatives and some other invited people are in ‘de Ridderzaal’ as well and the speech is recorded and broadcasted on television.
Did you know that ‘Prinsjesdag’ has a weird and special tradition: Females wear all kinds of extravagant hats? From small to big, red to green, round to square, everything is possible. (See picture 1.1)
After ‘de Troonrede’ the king steps into a golden carriage and is then escorted to ‘het Binnenhof’. Although, this year carriage wasn’t the golden carriage because it contained images representing slavery. Instead, a Glass carriage was chosen. At the ‘Noordeinde Palace’, the king and queen appear at a balcony saluting the crowd beneath them.
Afterwards, the minister of finance proposes ‘de Miljoenennota’ (budget memorandum) to the house of representatives. This is a summary of the national budget showing all the expected revenues and expenses for the upcoming year. Debates about the Dutch economy, public finance, influence of the plans, deficit(s) and other topics follow the presentation.
Some of the plans from for the coming year are the following:
- The minimum earnings of people from 21 or older are going to be abolished in steps so that those people can earn a full loan.
- 100 million euros are going to be spent supporting the poorer children to make it possible for them to go on school trips, join a club, have music lessons etc.
- Planned cuts in the care of handicapped and long during elderlies are being scrapped.
- There is extra money available for equal chances in education.
- Problems around earthquakes caused by gas extraction in the province of Groningen are being reduced by strengthening the building in the area and by cutting the gas extraction rate in half.
- Because of climate changing, investments are done on researching and installing environmental-friendly ways of producing energy.
- The Netherlands is working on improving the cooperation of the European union.
- The Netherlands is also working on controlling the stream of refugees in different ways. The priority is at giving the refugees shelter.
What became clear to me whilst writing these point and reading the plans, is that the Netherlands is very well recovering from the crisis and has a lot of money to spend. It all seems very positive. But of course, there wouldn’t be positive if there was no negative. Hiding behind the sunny view on the situation that the Netherlands is in, are some darker patches that I think are important to think about. One of them is about the environmental-friendly production of energy. While it is true that the use of wind, sun, water and other energies is increasing, it is still only a small amount. At this point in time, only around 5% of all produced energy is sustainable energy. The goal is set at 14% in 2020. Which almost triples the percentage, but the government is still looking into Gas-fired power plants and Coal-fired power plants. If we want sustainable energy, why would we still build and maintain those power plants? Money isn’t the problem, as the government seems to have enough at this point in time. Of course, there are many other factors playing here, but I think a lot more can be done to achieve a bigger percentage of sustainable energy production.
Another quite controversial point on the list is the refugee problem. Yes, the Dutch are actively helping the refugees and the government is actively cooperating in solving the problem, but I think there are wrong priorities in this case: As previously mentioned, the main focus is on giving and improving shelter for the refugees. This is a good thing, that’s for sure, but there are other (and I personally think better) ways to solve the problem. The one that would work the best is taking away the reason which makes the people flee. My opinion is that the United Nations should put even more effort into combating terrorism. Because to me, that seems the most effective solution. A downside to my vision is that this idea is probably not the easiest to realize, and it is impossible to wipe out all of the terrorism and other problems. Still, I think that the priority should be on this topic because we can make a difference!
In the end, ‘de Troonrede’ and ‘de Miljoenennota’ made clear in what economic state the Netherlands is in. We are recovering from the economic crisis again and actively improving life in society. On an international scale, things are still unstable, but our little country stands strong against it and is taking part in improving the outside situation. To me, it appears that we haven’t found the best balance between supporting on the national or international scale, but we are really close.
Author: Rick van de Sande