Budget Day (known as Prinsjesdag, or ‘Prince’s Day’), on the third Tuesday in September, is when the government announces its plans for the coming year. King Willem-Alexander travels in the Glass Coach to the Hall of Knights in The Hague. There he reads the Speech from the Throne, officially opening the parliamentary year.
The programme for Budget Day 2020 will be different this year due to measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
What is Budget Day?
Tekst Wat is Prinsjesdag ENG
The Dutch parliamentary year starts on the third Tuesday in September.
On this day – known as Prince’s Day – the King and Queen travel in the Glass Coach to the Hall of Knights in The Hague.
Assembled there are the ministers, state secretaries, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, and distinguished guests.
Together, the Senate and the House of Representatives make up the States General.
The King opens the new parliamentary session of the States General by reading the Speech from the Throne.
In this official address, the King outlines the government’s plans for the coming year.
And then there is the ceremonial briefcase.
On Prince’s Day, the Minister takes the briefcase to the House of Representatives and presents the National Budget and Budget Memorandum.
The National Budget comprises the individual budgets of all ministries.
In essence, they are bills that must still pass through parliament.
In the briefcase, we can also find the Budget Memorandum which gives additional information about the budget.
In the Memorandum, the government unfolds its plans and provides the anticipated revenue and expenditure.
Revenue mainly comes from taxes and social insurance contributions,
but also other sources such as the sale of natural gas.
On the expenditure side, the government indicates how much it plans to spend, for instance on education, social security, health care and security.
It also comments on the national and international economic situation and gives an indications of the Dutch financial situation.
After Prince’s Day, it is the turn of the House of Representatives to respond to the government’s plans.
All the ministers and state secretaries assemble for the Parliamentary Debate on the Speech from the Throne,
which broadly discusses the government’s policy for the coming year.
The Prime Minister speaks on behalf of the government during the debate.
In October, the parliament debates financial aspects of the budget.
The Minister of Finance discusses the Budget Memorandum and budgetary policy.
In the following months, the budget of all government ministries are individually studied and discussed.
Once the members of parliament have given their consent, the plans can be put into practice.
Presentation of the National Budget and the Budget Memorandum
Later that day, the Minister of Finance presents the House of Representatives with an overview of the costs of the plans announced in the Speech from the Throne. He goes to the House of Representatives with the ceremonial briefcase, where he presents the National Budget and the Budget Memorandum. These state how much money the government is making available for its various plans for the coming year, and where it is coming from.
‘The first Budget Memorandum was presented to Parliament on 18 September 1906.’
Tradition of the briefcase
The tradition of the budget briefcase started in 1947. Finance Minister Lieftinck wanted to add a touch of style when presenting the first budget after the Second World War. He copied it from the British, who have long presented the budget in a special case.
The current briefcase has been in use since 1964. It was a gift from the state printing house and made of goatskin parchment lined on the inside with blue silk. It is actually too small to contain all the budget documents, so some are submitted later to the President of the House of Representatives.
The ceremonial briefcase
On the morning of Budget Day the Minister of Finance signs the Budget Memorandum and the central government budget. By this time the individual ministries’ budgets will have been signed by their ministers. These documents are then placed in the ceremonial briefcase and the Minister of Finance walks with it from the finance ministry to the Binnenhof, where he presents the budget to the House of Representatives at 15.00.
The President of the House of Representatives gives the floor to the Minister of Finance, who delivers a short address explaining the Budget Memorandum. The Minister then presents the various documents to the President. Usually the Minister adds a personal note. In 2016, for example, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said:
‘To be truly able to look ahead, certainly to the next four years, the budget is an indispensable tool. This budget supplies a firm basis for doing so.’
Parliamentary debate on the budget
After Budget Day the House of Representatives and the Senate debate the budget. The House can make changes to budget proposals; the Senate cannot.
Before the end of the year, the House of Representatives and the Senate vote on the budget proposals and any amendments. As soon as both houses have approved the proposals, the central government budget is adopted. The government is then free to implement its plans.