Accountability Letter 2016: from budget deficit to surplus
In 2016 the government budget moved from deficit to a surplus of 0.4%. Unemployment fell by 75,000 to 6% of the working-age population. And in a third straight year of growth, the economy expanded by 2.2%.
‘We can conclude that the Netherlands has definitely recovered from the economic crisis.’ This was how Prime Minister Mark Rutte summed up the year’s favourable economic developments in the 2016 Accountability Letter he sent to the House of Representatives today. In this annual letter, the prime minister explains the progress the government has made on its policy priorities.
Instability around the world
The prime minister also pointed out that while the economic outlook for the Netherlands is positive, worldwide there are still risks that threaten stability and economic growth. In 2016 the Netherlands took part in international efforts to improve stability in the world in a number of ways, not least by continuing to contribute to the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. To ensure that the Netherlands is prepared to meet the threats and challenges ahead, the government decided to implement phased increases in the defence budget. In addition, the Netherlands agreed to renew its contribution to the NATO mission Resolute Support in Afghanistan.
Regarding the movement of refugees from Syria and other fragile states, the prime minister said that multiple measures have been implemented to bring this problem under control. In addition, the Netherlands took part in a dialogue with African countries on curbing and addressing the root causes of migration.
Security in the Netherlands
The threat against the Netherlands and Europe as a whole increased in 2016. In response, the intelligence and security services augmented their capacity significantly. Their powers were also expanded to include the authority to intercept cable-bound telecommunications.
On 6 April 2016 a consultative referendum was held regarding the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine. The government took a step-by-step approach to finding a solution that would do justice to the outcome of the referendum. On 15 December 2016, the European Council adopted conclusions that addressed the main concerns that emerged from the Dutch debate on the referendum. For example, the Council confirmed that the Association Agreement includes no commitment to confer the status of candidate country on Ukraine in the future.
Another priority in 2016 was the independent criminal investigation of the downing of flight MH17 on 17 July 2014. Mr Rutte: ‘Over the past year, the government has acted on its commitment to continue cultivating broad international support for the independent investigation and to keep the victims’ next of kin fully informed.’
Debate in the House of Representatives
The House of Representatives will debate the Accountability documents with the prime minister and the finance minister in the week of 29 May at the latest.