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The governor of the National Bank Luc Coene believes the civil service of the regions, communities and local authorities takes up too much expenditure of the federal government budget after establishing that these administrations increased their staff by almost 25 percent between 2000 and 2010. This, he maintains, is derailment. In response, Flemish minister of civil affairs, local and provincial government Geert Bourgeois N-VA and Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters CD&V yesterday stressed that the Flemish government is in the process of reducing its civil service, with Peeters and his team making efforts to reduce the number of Flemish civil servants by 6 percent during this term of office until 2014. “We are perfectly on track with this target,” Bourgeois confirms. “Unfortunately the National Bank stopped counting in 2010. Compared to the beginning of the current government period, the number of Flemish civil servants has already dropped by 4 percent,” adds Bourgeois, who introduced a number of policy measures to prevent city and community local authorities from increasing their staff. Moreover figures released by the Belgian Agency for local and provincial government indicate that employment at all local authorities dropped by 2.8 percent between 2006 and 2010. “If there’s anything that has not derailed, it’s the Flemish budget,” Bourgeois retorted, with Peeters echoing his statement, saying that the Flemish government‘s budget is the only one that balances. “The most efficient rule is that each government balances its own budget,” he says. “Situations in which the one government continues to incur debt while the other records a surplus is not tenable,” says Peeters, who also challenged Coene to explain in which Flemish departments he could make additional cuts education, innovation etc. And yet Coene is not alone in his criticism, as the Flemish minister-president’s federal party colleagues have reminded the regions of their responsibility in making savings. “The federal government made a huge effort to reduce its civil service. It is high time the regions and local authorities do the same,” federal finance minister Steven Vanackere CD&V said recently. Similarly state secretary for civil affairs Hendrik Bogaert CD&V stressed the fact that the federal government is ahead of the regions and local authorities in the reduction of their civil staff, reiterating that the communities and regions currently employ three times as many civil servants, and the local authorities twice as many as the federal government.
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