Dutch king announces 'unprecedented' measures to tackle cost-of-living crisis

by IANS |

The Hague, Sep 21 (IANS) King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands opened the new parliamentary year here,during which he announced "unprecedented" measures to tackle the country's cost-of-living crisis.

Addressing a joint session of the States-General (Senate and House of Representatives) from the throne on Tuesday, he acknowledged that the country is currently going through "a time of contradictions and uncertainty", reports Xinhua news agency.

The third Tuesday in September is Prince's Day in the Netherlands which marks the opening of the Dutch parliamentary season, and on this day the reigning monarch outlines the government's plans for the year ahead.

After a two-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this year's celebrations were again open to the public.

The crowd included admirers but also protesters, who were seen holding the Dutch flag upside down.

"We live in a time of contradictions and uncertainty," King Willem-Alexander said. "It is contradictory that livelihoods are under pressure and poverty is increasing in a period of economic growth and low unemployment."

He said that the government, faced with the need to restore purchasing power hit by the energy crisis, plans an "unprecedented" package of measures worth more than 18 billion euros and aimed primarily at low and middle-income households.

"Even with a package of this magnitude, not everyone can be compensated fully for all the price rises," he said.

Some of the measures are intended for the short term and the government aims to implement an energy price cap to enable people to continue to pay their energy bills, he said.

He said that the tax reduction on fuel and the energy allowance will continue in 2023, and health care benefit and the basic student grant will increase in the coming year.

"These measures will be financed in part by a temporary extra contribution from oil and gas companies," he said.

The King called for "unity and resilience" in a time when "people are losing faith in the resolving power of politics and government."

Princess Amalia, daughter of King Willem-Alexander and destined to be the next Queen, who turned 18 last year, attended the Prince's Day events for the first time.

She joined her parents in the Glass Coach for the ride from Noordeinde Palace to the Royal Theater, where the king read out his speech.

It has been a hectic year for the Dutch, with farmers staging repeated demonstrations against the government's nitrogen policy, and the protesters were present on Tuesday as well, holding up inverted flags, which has become their symbol.

The royal carriage was greeted with a loud mix of cheers and boos along the way.

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