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King's speech forecasts 'flourishing economy' for the Netherlands

The Dutch economy is forecast to grow by a robust 3.3% this year and 2.5% in 2018, the King of the Netherlands said in a speech to open the parliamentary year.

"After a number of difficult years we are again seeing a flourishing economy and healthy public finances," King Willem-Alexander told a joint sitting of both houses of the Dutch Parliament in a speech written by the government.

"But not everyone is feeling the impact of this economic growth sufficiently in their daily lives.

"It is important that more people profit from this prosperity."

The speech contained no major policy announcements as the two-party government has been in caretaker mode since elections in March and prime minister Mark Rutte is still in negotiations to form a new coalition.

However, the king said the government would invest more in intelligence agencies, counter-terrorism and cyber security.

It will also set aside money to fund the possible prosecution in Dutch courts of suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over Ukraine in 2014 killing all 298 people, many of them Dutch, on board.

On a day of pageantry and tight security, Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima rode in a horse-drawn carriage from the Noordeinde Palace to Parliament and back again.

Thousands of people lined the route to catch a glimpse of the royal couple.

Police installed temporary barriers to block roads near the route and officers patrolled the city as crowds, many wearing orange hats and scarves, cheered the royals.

Pauline Krikke, the mayor of The Hague, told Dutch broadcaster NOS that her city was "taking appropriate measures, both visible and invisible" to boost security.

Willem-Alexander also used the speech to offer support to the Caribbean territories of St Maarten, Saba and St Eustatius after they were devastated this month by Hurricane Irma.

The territories were braced on Tuesday for another category five storm, Hurricane Maria, to pass.

"The government will do all in its power to alleviate the islands' acute distress," Willem-Alexander said.

"The Caribbean part of the kingdom will not stand alone as it faces the task of reconstruction."

AP

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