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Dutch king says welfare state is gone

Delivers message of personal responsibility

Dutch King Willem-Alexander began his reign in April, after Queen Beatrix abdicated.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander began his reign in April, after Queen Beatrix abdicated.FRANK VAN BEEK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

AMSTERDAM — King Willem-Alexander delivered a message to the Dutch people from the government Tuesday in a nationally televised address: The welfare state of the 20th century is gone.

In its place a ‘‘participation society’’ is emerging, in which people must take responsibility for their own future and create their own social and financial safety nets, with less help from the national government.

The king traveled past waving fans in an ornate horse-drawn carriage to the 13th-century Hall of Knights in The Hague for the monarch’s traditional annual address on the day the government presents its budget for the coming year. It was Willem-Alexander’s first appearance on the national stage since former Queen Beatrix abdicated in April and he ascended to the throne.


‘‘The shift to a ‘participation society’ is especially visible in social security and long-term care,’’ the king said, reading out to lawmakers a speech written for him by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government.

‘‘The classic welfare state of the second half of the 20th century in these areas in particular brought forth arrangements that are unsustainable in their current form.’’

Rutte may be hoping that the pomp and ceremony surrounding the king and his popular wife, Queen Maxima, will provide a diversion from the gloomy reality of a budget full of unpopular new spending cuts he revealed later in the day.

A series of recent polls have shown that confidence in Rutte’s government is at record low levels and that most Dutch people — along with labor unions, employers’ associations, and many economists — believe the Cabinet’s austerity policies are at least partially to blame for a worsening Dutch economy, even as recoveries are underway in neighboring Germany, France, and Britain.

After several consecutive years of government spending cuts, the Dutch economy is expected to have shrunk by more than 1 percent in 2013, and the agency is forecasting growth of just 0.5 percent next year.


‘‘The necessary reforms take time and demand perseverance,’’ the king said. But they will ‘‘lay the basis for creating jobs and restoring confidence.’’

The king said Tuesday that some costs for the care of the elderly, for youth services, and for job retraining after layoffs will now be pushed back to the local level, in order to make them better tailored to local circumstances.