* Netherlands committed to 3 pct deficit target - FinMin
* Higher deficit possible due to economic setbacks - FinMin
(Adds FinMin comment, background)
AMSTERDAM Dec 20 The Netherlands is committed
to meeting the European Union's 3 percent budget deficit rule,
its finance minister told parliament on Thursday, after
forecasts showed the country would miss the target next year.
Earlier this week the cabinet's economic forecaster, the
CPB, warned that the Netherlands will miss its 3.0 percent
budget deficit target in 2013 as the economy contracts for the
second year running.
The CPB projections come close on the heels of an even
gloomier outlook from the central bank, at a time when the
Netherlands, one of the euro zone's few triple-A rated
economies, is considered at risk of being downgraded.
"I've been asked what it means that European rules are
leading. It means that the Netherlands commits to the actual
deficit rule, meaning 3 percent, the structural deficit, and the
reduction of debt," Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told
the Dutch Lower House during a debate on the budget.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Dijsselbloem have refrained
from saying whether the deteriorating economic environment will
force the Netherlands to come up with more austerity measures.
The government has already agreed to roughly 30 billion euros of
budget cuts this year which will be implemented up to 2017.
Dijsselbloem, considered a front-runner to chair the
Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, said again that he
would decide in February or March whether more budget cuts would
be needed to meet the European Monetary Union (EMU) deficit
target of 3 percent of gross domestic product.
Asked in parliament whether the Dutch budget deficit would
exceed the 3 percent limit next year, he said that could not be
"There could be very heavy weather or a very unexpected, big
setback, it's all possible," he said, adding that the coalition
government would aim to meet the target in 2013 and 2014.
Budget rules allow the European Commission to give a country
more time to reduce its deficit if its economy is performing
poorly. In July, the commission allowed Spain one extra year to
meet its deficit target.
Dijsselbloem also told parliament on Thursday that the
proceeds of the government's telecom spectrum auction, which
raised a higher-than-expected 3.8 billion euros last week, would
be used in next year's budget.
The economic outlook for the Netherlands remains gloomy,
with official forecasters predicting output will contract this
year and next, while consumer confidence remains fragile in the
face of job cuts and tumbling house prices.
Unemployment hit 7 percent in November, the Central
Statistics Bureau said earlier on Thursday, the highest level in
at least 15 years.
Consumer spending contracted 2.4 percent in October from a
year ago, the biggest fall in three years, as the Dutch cut back
on big-ticket items such as durable goods and cars, particularly
after the government increased value-added tax on October 1.
(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Catherine Evans)