Belgium daily news summary
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26 June 2008
Chains cause more Belgian families to buy on credit
Belgian families have a record amount of approximately 18.1 billion EUR of consumer credit outstanding at the end of 2007, which was 11 percent more than in 2006. The largest part of that amount, namely 13 billion EUR, comes from loans with payment on instalment, followed by the opening of credit accounts (3.35 billion EUR). The latter are credit lines with a credit card. 65 percent of the approximate 4 million cases of opened credit accounts take place with credit cards supplied by department stores or chain stores such as Carrefour, Fnac or Krëfel, or by mail order enterprises such as La Redoute. The outstanding debt of these non-banking credit lines rose by 13 percent to EUR 1.37 billion last year. The banking federation Febelfin has no problem with this type of credit assistance outside the bank. Behind these types of credit assistance there is always a financial institution being regulated by the same legal conditions as the banks, Febelfin maintains. The consumer organisation Test-Aankoop, however, did make some remarks: Some large chain stores trespass the law on consumer credit, as they do not actively check whether their clients can indeed afford a credit line.
Voka asks all civil services to join in on diet
Although the public sector is a necessary institution, it also needs an ideal weight as is the case with humans. In Belgium the government expenditure as part of the Gross Domestic Product amounts to 48.7 percent, which is 5 percent above its ideal level, said the Louvainian professor Wim Moesen. In Belgium four out of a hundred people work for the administrations and departments, which gives us a top position in the world. The Flemish umbrella organisation of employers, Voka, used the outcome of the research to demand a scaling down of the administrations (local, Flemish, federal). According to managing director Philippe Muyters, the coming years will present a unique opportunity to perform the operation without pain. A very large number of officials who were recruited in the seventies will be going on pension. There should be 140,000 in 2019. Muyters suggested that only half of them should be replaced. To prevent it from happening at the expense of the quality of service rendering, special commissions will have to decide where in the administrations efficiency profit could be booked, Voka suggests.
Flemish research on renewable energy in five new projects
The technological platform ‘Generaties’, consisting of the research agency 3E, the federation of the technological industry Agoria and Ghent Bioenergy Valley, wants to support five initiatives that will have to steer the knowledge on durable energy in Flanders to a higher level. Flanders could play along on an international level, as Agoria already has within its ranks a number of world-class enterprises such as Deme (dredging), Umicore, Vyncke, Hansen Transmissions, Pauwels International and Photovoltech. One of the first initiatives would be the building of an experimental infrastructure for the testing of wind turbine parts. Hansen Transmissions and Pauwels International are authorities as far as wind turbine parts are concerned. On the initiative of the nano-electronic institute, Imec, the platform also wants to create a Flemish inter-universitary photo-voltaic platform to do research in how to decrease the costs of solar energy. Apart from that, there is also an option for a model project regarding an intelligent electricity network, which should ensure higher accessibility of durable energy in the network. Another strategic option of the platform is the building of a model installation for bio fuels. And finally, the platform also wants a model installation for the use of biomass in the production of hydrogen.
Sector federations realise they will have to severely temper forced prognoses for 2008
De Tijd enquired from the top people of the sector federations about how managers feel in this period of increasing energy and salary costs, inflation and the decline of buying power. From the survey one could conclude that the demand is shrinking in quite a number of sectors. Many managers fear that the country is on the verge of a declining growth curve. This will result in a drop in business profits, and an increase in restructuring and in the number of bankruptcies. Fa Quix, the top man at Fidustria (textile, furniture and timber) expects 10 percent less growth for the textile sector in 2008. Three-quarters of the production is earmarked for export, but due to the strong euro it is becoming increasingly difficult to export outside the euro zone. His colleague in the distribution sector Fedis, Dominique Michel, expects an increase in the number of bankruptcies, as the distributors cannot channel the increase in their energy costs to the consumers. In the food sector (Fevia) one could expect that the declining buying power will result in a changing in buying behaviour. It could mean more cheap products with lower margins resulting in a lower profit.
Vilvoorde requires language test for those who want to buy social welfare homes
De Standaard /Vlaams-Brabant/Brussel ; Thursday 26 June 2008 ; p.6
The municipal council Vilvoorde, a town in the Flemish Periphery around Brussels, has decided that candidate buyers and their partners have to know Dutch in order to be considered for buying 15 social welfare homes. If they do not have a diploma issued by a Dutch speaking school they will have to pass a language test. The rule obviously caught the French speakers on the wrong foot. Politicians of the francophone party FDF want Europe to declare the new municipal rule null and void. The other French-speaking parties also disapprove unambiguously. They request the Flemish government to "intervene with the decision by the Vilvoorde municipal council and to have the constitutional state respected". According to the Flemish Minister of Home Affairs , Marino Keulen (VLD), his government may not intervene at this stage because the term during which an appeal could have been lodged with the provincial governor, has expired. In Flanders, a housing code already exists, demanding from candidate tenant’s willingness to attend languages lessons. Jurists notice that such a commitment of willingness is allowed. From a judicial point of view, a commitment of proved results, however, is one step too far, maintains De Standaard.
InBev ready for hostile bid
The Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev has sent a third and final letter to the management board of Anheuser-Busch, requesting them to negotiate about a takeover. The style of the letter is very definite, De Standaard reports. The financing of the takeover has been fixed. InBev has even paid the banks their commissions worth 50 million dollars. If the management council of A-B does not react to the offer to negotiate, it will become a hostile bid. InBev offers 65 dollar per A-B share. There was no reaction from the Anheuser-Busch headquarters in St. Louis yesterday. If there is no sign that they are willing to talk, InBev will simply present its bid, where after the management council of A-B will have to respond within ten days. According to De Standaard this could even happen tomorrow.
Less cases because loser has to pay part of attorney’s costs
Since the loser in a court case has to contribute in paying the attorney’s costs of the winner less cases have been instituted. Data released by the Brussels Bar shows that there is one tenth less civil cases than previously. This trend has been confirmed by a survey involving 1,240 attorneys, which was conducted by the specialist journal ‘De Juristenkrant’. If clients feel that they have a poor case, they hesitate to go to court. It even happens with people who do have a good case. Mostly citisens with a middle income are less inclined to go to court. The new rule has less impact on enterprises, because they may deduct the cost from their taxes after all. Most attorneys are of the opinion that the large amounts to be paid by the losers lead to some unfair applications.