(Adds details, quotes)
AMSTERDAM, Sept 20 The Dutch government said on
Tuesday it would spend more generously next year, reversing
years of austerity policies as it heads into campaigning for
elections in March.
Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the government
would increase spending by 2.3 billion euros, with more for
security, healthcare, childcare and education.
The budget also included an upgrade to next year's growth
forecast by the Netherlands' Bureau for Economic Policy
Analysis, from 1.6 percent to 1.7 percent.
"The tide has turned", Dijsselbloem said in a speech to
parliament. Now "we can look further ahead and invest in
opportunities and people."
It is not clear whether voters will listen: national
broadcaster NOS published a poll on Tuesday which said most
Dutch people think their personal finances are worsening and
they are not benefiting from the recovery.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative VVD Party trails
the far-right party of populist Geert Wilders in opinion polls.
Wilders is campaigning on a platform that would have the
Netherlands close its borders to Muslim immigrants and refugees,
and quit the euro and European Union.
Dijsselbloem's Labour party has lost more than half its
popularity since the previous elections in 2012.
The minister responded to criticism in recent weeks that the
government's austerity policies had damaged the economy
unnecessarily. "Spending cuts may cost jobs and growth, but the
specific Dutch circumstances couldn't be ignored," he said,
arguing that the Netherlands had been harder hit by the
financial crisis than others and urgently needed to cut
The national debt is expected to fall to 62 percent of GDP
next year amid falling unemployment.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)