Flemish businesses cannot understand why federal government fails to support them
The formerly discrete Flemish businessman has swapped the drawing-rooms of his business club for the public gallery because he is both fed up with the government and fearful. The economic crisis has been dragging far too long, and even though businesses have done their best to cut costs and exposed staff to temporary layoffs and technical unemployment, the economic engine is sputtering. Belgian and European macro-economic figures continue to disappoint and the banks are tightening the loan facilities even further. Liquidations and subsequent job losses are the order of the day. Frustrated and nervous businessmen are demanding a recovery policy from the Di Rupo government. A policy that is furthermore free from additional tax pressure which, according to the consultancy PwC, is as high as 57.7%. Many Flemish entrepreneurs also distrust federal prime minister Elio Di Rupo PS, who is considered as a symbol of the Walloon economy which has been lagging behind the Flemish economy for decades. They blame him for his lack of economic ambition and goodwill. For the first time in decades Flemish business leaders feel unsure about their prime minister, who does not attend business receptions and openings. They also feel that the Flemish liberals Open VLD and the Christian Democrats CD&V have left them in the lurch. Former premier Yves Leterme CD&V delivered speeches at business congresses, but current deputy prime minister Steven Vanackere CD&V is considered as a man of the christian workers' movement ACW. The hostile climate recently worsened when the Flemish socialists of the SP.A ciritcized Flemish enterpreneurs a couple of times. Deputy presidente Vande Lanotte's statement in the newspaper De Morgen yesterday that employers have lost their comfort zone now that the government has intensified its hunt on fraud, was the final straw. Many businesses find it hard to understand why the government is no longer supporting them now that they are going through a difficult period. The Flemish Nationalist N-VA party has made effective use of this feeling of discontent and frustration. N-VA president Bart De Wever has visited a large number of business clubs in recent years and his rightwing economic discourse has met with success. Even though his Flemish Nationalist stance is in sharp contrast to the international vision held by most Flemish businessmen and his party political ideals not shared by them, they agree with his criticism of the current policy.