Today is Prinsjesdag, the Dutch version of Budget day. It is the day on which the reigning monarch of the Netherlands (currently Queen Beatrix) addresses a joint session of the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives in the Ridderzaal or Hall of Knights in The Hague. The Speech from the Throne (Dutch: Troonrede) sets out the main features of government policy for the coming parliamentary session.
Given the current economical situation in the EUnion and the world at large, nobody was expecting this to be a day of light moods. But our own Finance minister, Jan Kees de Jager tried his best, or so it seemed, to put the fear of God in all and sundry: Economic storm threatens the Netherlands, says finance minister.
The Netherlands will have to dig its heels in to withstand the coming economic storm, finance minister Jan Kees de Jager told MPs on Tuesday, as he formally handed over the government’s 2012 spending plans to parliament.
‘We are being threatened by something, but we don’t know what is heading for us, or when, the minister said.
‘It is clear that 2012 is going to be a difficult year for a lot of people,’ De Jager said. ‘We have to make difficult choices and they will hurt.’
The Netherlands is a financially solid country, but still runs a deficit and the debt is increasing. This year alone the country will spend €70m too much every day.
The cabinet is trying to carve out a leading role in restoring financial stability to the EU, he said. This is why the government is keen to tighten up eurozone budget rules and prevent the spread of the Greek crisis. In the long term ‘we have to ensure our weaker brother does not bring down other countries in its wake,’ De Jager said.
The infuriating bit is of course the pigheaded refusal to look facts in the face. This crisis is not just a Greek crisis. Europe as a whole is broke. And far from being a help, both the euro and the EUnion are reinforcing the proof, on an almost daily basis, they are a hindrance, huge obstacles in the way of measures that serve the needs of each individual country and its economy.
Still, it was almost a relief to see that the minister had at least a beginning of an understanding of the magnitude of our current predicament. It was certainly refreshing to be spared the highly incredible happy-crappy talk that has polluted Dutch airways ever since Greece triggered this latest crisis. Just last week minister de Jager was seemingly adamant that the money on loan from the Netherlands to Greece would be paid back in full, with interest. Yes, that was the same week when the choir lamenting the imminent Greek default grew ten-fold overnight. De Jagers optimistic pronouncement was, unsurprisingly, met with general scorn and disbelief.
But all that aside, what is it that has minister de Jager running for his Mums apron? What does he know that we all should?
[UPDATE001] “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.” — Frederic Bastiat.
Ferdy points out a piece in Forbes outlining the stark choice we are presented with:
The result may be a new background consensus that recognizes the limits of what governments can do, and the cost of empowering them to do more. Or, supported by mobs in the streets, the governing elite may declare a state of emergency and seize businesses and property, consuming capital in the name of the greater good.
Or, in other words: Freedom or serfdom. Which do you pick?