Budget minister accused of lying over 'loan'
20 January 2006, BRUSSELS — Budget Minister Freya Van den Bossche is in hot water over a government commitment to repay the oil sector EUR 100 million used to compensate the public for the higher cost of energy.
20 January 2006
BRUSSELS — Budget Minister Freya Van den Bossche is in hot water over a government commitment to repay the oil sector EUR 100 million used to compensate the public for the higher cost of energy.
Van den Bossche has repeatedly said the government does not need to repay the money, but it has since been revealed she personally signed the agreement with the oil sector.
Finance Minister Didier Reynders and Economy Minister Marc Verwilghen also signed the document, which was leaked to the press on Thursday.
After a financially good year for the oil sector, the government decided it should pay EUR 100 million into federal coffers to help the government give Belgian households a discount on the price of heating oil.
But instead of a one-off gift, it has now been revealed the federal government will have to repay the EUR 100 million to the petroleum industry by 31 March, newspaper 'Het Nieuwsblad' reported on Friday.
If the government fails to meet the deadline, the petroleum sector will be allowed to increase the price of fuel by EUR 0.65 per litre.
This is despite the fact Van den Bossche has repeatedly said in recent weeks the money was a 'loan' from the petroleum industry and was thus 'extra' income for the government.
In response to the controversy, the Parliament was highly critical of Van den Bossche on Thursday. Opposition parties stressed that either Van den Bossche lied or didn't know what she had signed.
Reform Movement MR federal government State Secretary Hervé Jamar also said there could be no doubt about the agreement: all of the money must be repaid.
However, Jamar could give no definite answer to the question of where the government was going to find the EUR 100 million.
Jamar represented Van den Bossche in the parliamentary debate because the budget minister was forced to stay at home on medical advice after a car accident on Monday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news