Skip to main content

The King's watery speech

Published on: 16/09/2015

The King's speech marks the opening of the Dutch parliamentary year. This year he drew attention to the important position of the Netherlands in the international water sector. The budgets that were presented alongside the speech also reflect this, notably with a 6% increase for the budget for WASH. Here are some of the main points - with my brief analysis of them.

Given the Dutch King's background in the water sector, it is not a surprise that he spoke in his speech with passion about expected new water works in the Netherlands. In that, he also highlighted how the track record around water management in the Netherlands, helps positioning the country better in the international water sector. The plans and budget of the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation also reflect a renewed positioning of water in the Netherlands development cooperation activities. Some key facts in that are: 

  • Within the budget for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation the item of “improved water management, drinking water and sanitation”, increases from 173 million Euro in 2015 to 188 million in 2016, so an increase of around 15 million Euro, or almost 9%. It is expected to increase to 193 million Euro per year after that. Whether that will happen, of course will depend on the new Government which should be in position by then.
  • Of the 188 million available for water “management, drinking water and sanitation”, about 89 million is available for drinking water and sanitation (WASH), and another 89 million for water resources management. The remaining 10 million is support to the World Bank, which covers both those subsectors..
  • Compared to 2015, this means the budget for WASH has increased with 5 million Euro (about 6% increase), whereas the budget for water resources management has increased with 10 million (13%). It is of course great that the budget for WASH has increased – particularly in view of the continued overall cuts in Dutch aid.
  • Of the WASH budget of 89 million, almost 52 million is destined for bilateral programmes, managed by the embassies. The remaining 37 million is managed centrally by DGIS in the Hague. Interestingly, the budget increase of 5 million occurs largely at HQ level.
  • These amounts only reflect direct support to the WASH sector. Note that there are several other budget items where there may be WASH involved. For example, there is a budget for “strategic partnerships for strengthening civil society”, which cover many themes, including WASH. In fact, IRC is leading one of them: WASH IT!
  • Budgets for the bilateral country programmes for “management of water, drinking water and sanitation” are as follows (note these are the combined budgets for WASH and water resources management):
  1. Yemen: 5.9 million Euro (+0.8 million Euro compared to 2015)
  2. Mali: 8 million Euro (same as 2015)
  3. Palestine: 4 million Euro (same)
  4. Rwanda: 8.2 million Euro (+0.2 million Euro)
  5. Bangladesh: 21.2 million Euro (-1 million Euro)
  6. Benin: 18.5 million Euro (same – this surprises me given the fact that the Dutch water programme there was stopped and not renewed following a fraud case)
  7. Ghana: 20 million Euro (same)
  8. Indonesia: 5 million Euro (same)
  9. Kenya: 6 million Euro (same)
  10. Mozambique: 8.7 million Euro (same)
  11. Great Lakes Region: 5.5 million Euro (same)

Of course, these budgets must be seen in relation to the ambition. The key - and exciting - ambition of the Minister is to provide 50 million people with sanitation and 30 million with water supply by 2030, as the Netherlands contribution to the achievement of the SDGs. She has made that commitment earlier this year at an event in Washington. The plan for 2016 is the first time, the commitment has been made in writing to Parliament. We now need to do the numbers and assess whether the budgets are sufficient; expect more on that soon! The plans also reconfirm the commitment of the Ministry to sustainability of WASH services, highlighting for example the sustainability clauses as a key tool for that.

The commitments to contribute to the SDG targets and ensuring sustainable services are great and will definitely contribute to positioning the Netherlands in the international water sector. Over the coming months, Parliament will scrutinize these plans and budgets - and so will we as Dutch civil society organisations - to assess whether the budgets live up to the ambition, as expressed in the King's speech. 

Disclaimer

At IRC we have strong opinions and we value honest and frank discussion, so you won't be surprised to hear that not all the opinions on this site represent our official policy.