Dutch king declares end of the welfare Netherland
AP — AMSTERDAM

The King of the Netherlands has informed his country that their welfare state is finished.

King Willem-Alexander, alongside his wife, Queen Maxima, told the Dutch people on Tuesday that they must create their own social and financial safety nets, and that looking to the state for help was a thing of the 20th century.

The speech was part of the monarch’s annual address on the day the government presents its budget.

It was not immediately clear if the 100 million euros spent by the government on maintaining the Royal House, with its castles and parades, would be included in the austerity cuts.

The monarchy was not immune to cost-cutting and Willem-Alexander’s salary will be cut from around 825,000 euros ($1.1 million) this year to 817,000 euros in 2014. Maintaining the Royal House — castles, parades and all — costs the government around 40 million euros annually

Recent polls show confidence in the government at a record low and that most Dutch people believe the cabinet’s austerity policies are at least partially to blame.

The Dutch economy is expected to have shrunk by more than one percent in 2013, and is worsening while recoveries are underway in Britain, Germany and France.

A review of the government’s budget by the country’s independent analysis agency showed that the deficit will widen in 2014 to 3.3 percent of GDP despite the new spending cuts intended to reduce it.

Eurozone rules specify that countries must keep their deficit below 3 percent, and Rutte has been among the most prominent of European leaders, along with Germany’s Angela Merkel, in insisting that Southern European countries attempt to meet that target.

Among other measures, the government announced 2,300 new military job cuts. That follows a 2011 decision to cut 12,000 jobs — one out of every six defense employees — between 2012 and 2015.

However, the government said Tuesday it has decided once and for all not to abandon the U.S.-led “Joint Strike Fighter” program to develop new military aircraft. The program has suffered cost overruns and created divisions within Rutte’s governing coalition.

A debate over the budget later this week will be crucial for the future of the coalition, as it does not command a majority in the upper house, and it must seek help from opposition parties to have the budget approved..

Challenged as to whether his Cabinet may be facing a crisis, Rutte insisted in an interview with national broadcaster NOS on Tuesday that he ultimately will find support for the budget.

“At crucial moments, the opposition is willing to do its share,” he said.

Geert Wilders, whose far right Freedom Party currently tops popularity polls, called Rutte’s budget the equivalent of “kicking the country while it’s down.”

 

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