Progress, but still no deal over federal budget
10 October 2005, BRUSSELS — A meeting of federal government ministers ended at 12.40am on Monday morning without an agreement over the 2006 Budget.
10 October 2005
BRUSSELS — A meeting of federal government ministers ended at 12.40am on Monday morning without an agreement over the 2006 Budget.
Ministers were to meet with unions and employers on Monday morning and afterwards, budgetary discussions were scheduled to continue further.
Despite the failure of Sunday's talks to seal a general accord, progress appears to have been made, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported.
However, Budget Minister Johan vande Lanotte warned that much work still needed to be done.
He refused to confirm the government's financial plans and said in the absence of a general accord, only a few proposals were on the negotiating table.
The Socialist SP.A deputy prime minister said a new fiscal amnesty was not up for discussion. Instead, a system was being drawn up to give native Belgians and foreign residents with tax debts greater legal certainty in repayments.
Reform Movement (MR) Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders also raised speculation about the introduction of such a system. He denied a new EBA scheme was up for discussion.
Liberal VLD Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Dewael said important steps had been made in the discussion, especially regarding the financing of the state social security system.
He said a series of tax cuts will be presented to unions and employers, but refused to confirm figures.
However, Dewael also said a deal over social security is linked to an agreement over the fiscal section of the budget. This is still being studied by a work group.
According to some sources, a system designed to generate extra fiscal income — what was earlier dubbed the EBA — is the most important part of discussions. It is also an important element in efforts to balance the budget.
Consensus appears to have been more or less reached over tax cuts and Reynders indicated that EUR 600 to 900 million in tax relief had been earmarked.
The fact that social security will be boosted — such as Social Affairs Minister Rudy Demotte said earlier on Sunday — had already been included in proposals sent to unions and employers, Reynders said. The extent of the funding boost must still be assessed.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx said progress had been made in discussions around the budget, but that it was too early to speak of an accord.
And Employment Minister Freya van den Bossche revealed that the government had agreed on lifting the early retirement age from 58 to 60.
However, she said a series of exceptions will be built into the system, benefiting those who started work at an early age or have performed heavy professions.
The inner Cabinet was to meet on Monday morning prior to the talks with the government's social partners, namely unions and employers.
In the afternoon, federal ministers were to meet with the Flemish, Wallonian and Brussels premiers.
Onkelinx said several regional questions would be examined at that meeting, such as the Wallonian government's 'Marshall Plan'. Budgetary agreements would also be made.
After the meeting with the regional premiers, federal ministers were to gather again to draw up a final deal over next year's budget.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news