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  1. The King's Speech

    Photo of the King delivering the King's Speech.

    As Head of State, King Willem-Alexander delivers the so-called King's Speech on Prince's Day on behalf of the Dutch government. In his Speech, the King sets out the state of play in the Netherlands and the government's plans for the coming year. "Members of the States General". Those are the opening words of the King's Speech. King Willem-Alexander delivers the speech before the joint meeting of the States General, but does not write it himself; the ministers do. Every minister makes a contribution in his or her field of policy, which are integrated into one speech by the Prime Minister.

  2. The presentation of the National Budget and the Budget Memorandum

    The minister of Finance presents his "Third-Tuesday-of-September"-briefcase

    After the King's Speech and the traditional cheering of the monarch "Long live the King, hurray, hurray, hurray", the King leaves the Hall of Knights. The members of the House of Representatives then make their way to the plenary meeting hall of the House, where the minister of Finance presents his "Third-Tuesday-of-September"-briefcase, which contains the National Budget and the Budget Memorandum.

    The National Budget and the Budget Memorandum

    The National Budget consists of a number of proposals of law (bills), one for each ministry, with regard to national expenditure, obligations and national revenue for the coming year. The National Budget and the annual reports enable MPs to check whether the Cabinet has put the taxpayers' money to good use. The budget bills relate to the budgetary year, which is concurrent with the calendar year and runs from January 1st to December 31st.

    The Budget Memorandum

    The Budget Memorandum is a policy document in which the government looks ten years back and four years ahead. This enables MPs to make a good judgement of the government's proposals. The Budget Memorandum is the financial translation of the King's Speech. It describes the current economic and financial situation of the Netherlands and the prospective developments in the Netherlands, in Europe and abroad. It also describes the State's financial situation, the "public treasury". Budget Memorandum, therefore, is another term for Memorandum on the State's finances.

    Budget Bill

    Parliament authorizes the Cabinet to spend money, to assume obligations and to raise revenues. A general budget as well as specific budgets for each field of policy, such as health care, security and education, are laid down by Act of Parliament. A minister may spend less money, but is not allowed to exceed the budget. An additional bill must be passed by Parliament to stretch a budget.

    Budget bills

    The budgets of the respective government departments are presented in the form of budget bills. In autumn, both the House of Representatives and the Senate discuss the budget bills, which require Parliament's approval, whether amended or not. Some proposals are amended and adapted, some proposals are rejected and others are adopted immediately without any changes. Only the House of Representative has the right of amendment and can make changes to budget bills. The Senate does not have the right of amendment.

  3. General debate

    Photo of representatives debating in the Plenary Hall.

    Before the Cabinet can carry out its proposals, Parliament has to consider and approve them. That is why, after the State Opening of Parliament on Prince's Day, the House of Representatives will set out to consider the National Budget and the Budget Memorandum. The Budget Memorandum and the National budget contain the plans of the Cabinet for the coming years and the financial basis thereof. The House of Representatives holds a debate about the impact of the proposals on Dutch society. This debate is called the general political debate.

    Motions

    All the ministers and state secretaries as well as all MPs are present when the general political debate is held. The prime minister speaks on behalf of the government and the leaders of each political group speak on behalf of their political group. By means of a motion, MPs can make it clear that they do not agree with parts of the proposals, or add some elements.
    Important debate
    The debate generally goes on for two days. It is thought of as a very important debate, because it is about what the government is going to do next year. The debate attracts a lot of media attention and is televised live during the daytime.

    General financial debate

    In October the House of Representatives holds a general financial debate, in which the financial experts of the various political groups represented in Parliament discuss the National Budget with the minister of Finance. In the next two months, each cabinet minister will defend his or her own budget bill in Parliament.
    MPs have the time until January 1st to discuss the proposals. In general, the government and Parliament will not fully agree with each other. That is why there are meetings and debates on the plans throughout the rest of the year.

  4. The beginning of the budgetary year

    Photo from the Binnenhof in winter.

    On January 1st the budgetary year begins, during which the government departments will implement their budgets. The House of Representatives monitors if the Government keeps its promises. Ministers and state secretaries must regularly come to the House to answer questions from MPs about their budget. A budget bill also requires approval from the Senate. However, Senators still have the time to consider a budget bill during the first months of the budgetary year.

    Budget cycle

    On Prince's Day, the Government presents the National Budget and the Budget Memorandum for the coming budgetary year. Parliament discusses the various documents in the general political and financial debates and the debates on the budgets of the respective ministries, until the Christmas recess. In spring and autumn the minister of Finance reports to the House on the progress in government expenditure and revenue.

    Accountability Day

    On Accountability Day the central government's annual financial report and the annual reports of the respective ministries are presented to the House of Representatives. The financial report is the counterpart of the Budget Memorandum. Accountability Day marks the end of the budget cycle, which started on Prince's Day 18 months earlier.

  5. The Spring Memorandum

    Photo from the Binnenhof in spring.

    In the so-called Spring Memorandum the minister of Finance reports on the progress in government expenditure and revenue. In combination with the Budget Memorandum and the Fall Memorandum the Spring Memorandum offers a general statement of the State's Finances. The debate about the Spring Memorandum is held by the end of June or early in July, shortly before the summer recess. To this end, the minister has tot submit the Spring Memorandum to the House of Representatives by June 1st at the latest.

    The Spring Memorandum gives rise to comprehensive debate between the financial experts of the House and the minister of Finance about the financial prospects and any future wishes. In the debate on the Spring Memorandum the MPs and the minister often also look ahead to the next Budget Memorandum. Windfalls, shortfalls and changes in policy over the running year can lead to adjustments in the estimates of the current budget. These are incorporated into the Spring and Fall Memorandums and the accompanying so-called supplementary budget bills.

    Suplementary budget bills

    If a minister needs more budget than he has been allocated by Parliament, he has to propose an additional, so-called supplementary budget bill, for instance when expenditure exceeds the estimates. Supplementary budget bills are updated estimates, and need to be considered and adopted by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Major changes in policy are seldom put forward, however. Supplementary budget bills are processed by the House and the Senate as any other bill: The House has the right to propose amendments; the Senate does not have this right.

  6. The Fall Memorandum

    Photo from the Binnenhof in fall.

    In the second half of December, shortly before the Christmas recess, the debate on the so-called Fall Memorandum is conducted. The Fall Memorandum contains the changes as compared to the Budget Memorandum. The minister of Finance has to file the Fall Memorandum to the House of Representatives no later than December 1st.

  7. The end of the budgetary year

    Photo from the Binnenhof in winter.

    The budgetary year expires on December 31st. Early in the next year the Government draws up an annual report, to be discussed by the House on Accountability Day in May.

  8. Accountability Day

    Photo from the Binnenhof buildings in winter.

    The budgetary year expires on December 31st. Early in the next year the Government draws up an annual report, to be discussed by the House on Accountability Day in May.

    Desired policy goals

    On Accountability Day the president of the Netherlands Court of Audit, too, presents a report to the House of Representatives, scrutinising the Government's policy over the past year: have the desired policy goals been achieved and did the Cabinet observe the law? The Netherlands Court of Audit also reports on the annual reports of each ministry.

    Accounting

    Mid-June the House of Representatives holds a debate on the financial reports and the reports of the Netherlands Court of Audit. MPs discuss with the ministers the implementation of the various policy programmes, as well as the results and costs. After the debate in the House, the Senate also discusses the annual reports, so the ministers must account to both chambers of the States General. That is why the third Wednesday in May is called Accountability Day.

    Adjustment or change

    On Accountability Day the Government does not account for its plans for the current year, but for the previous year. In 2007, for instance, the Government had to account for its plans presented on Prince's Day 2005 and implemented in 2006. Because the implementation of the plans is immediately evaluated in the following year, the Cabinet can incorporate the comments made by the House of Representatives in the draft budget bill for the next year, and thus adjust or change its policy, if necessary.