Every third Tuesday of September is Prinsjesdag in the Netherlands; the official opening of the new parliamentary year. It is a traditional, national and symbolic day.
The Queen addresses both Houses of Parliament in The Hague and sets out the principal government policies for the coming year. Thereafter the Finance Minister announces the annual national budget and a parliamentary discussion ensues. This usually entails the opposition declaring that the government is doing a poor job, and the government confirming what a grand job they are doing running the country.
Traditionally, the head of the monarchy sets off from Noordeinde Palace in The Hague at one o'clock in the Gouden Koets (Golden Carriage) to the Houses of Parliament (Binnenhof) to deliver her Speech from the Throne. After the speech is delivered she returns to Noordeinde, and the Queen usually salutes the crowd from the palace balcony.
It is pomp and ceremony at its best and a lot of fun, especially if you are a hat spotter. Think à la races at Ascot in England! It is about the only occasion in the political calendar when the Dutch female politicians wear hats, and it is a time to see who is wearing what. The results range from impressive to outright bizarre, and everything in between.
Of course the day brings with it confirmation of budgetary measures that will effect almost all in the country and debate is already rife. To date, information obtained by RTL news suggests that some pensioners will be no better off in 2009, despite reassurances from Minister Bos that no groups would be adversely effected by the coming budget. Leaked figures show that economic growth is slowing (no surprises there), inflation is rising (again, no shock to anyone with half an ear to the ground) and unemployment is expected to rise slightly.
The main news, however, is that most people living in the Netherlands will have their buying power improve, even if it is just a notional increase. The rest... well that is all a secret and we will have to wait until Tuesday for the details! Watch this space.