Expatica news

Clash of words as MPs debate federal budget

Update: 13 October 2005

BRUSSELS — Strong words were exchanged in the Belgian Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday as MPs discussed the federal government’s balanced budget and ‘generation pact’.

The debate started with and was largely dominated by a confrontation between the Socialist SP.A and the CD&V over the government’s fiscal amnesty and new taxes on investments.

Taking the brunt of the opposition’s attack, SP.A MP Dirk Van der Maelen remained resolute: “I am not standing here with a blush of shame on my cheeks. Here stands a satisfied parliamentary leader”.

But CD&V leader Pieter de Crem said his party was waiting to see how the government would explain the fact a second fiscal amnesty had been drawn up and that small investors were being taxed even more.

For his part, Van der Maelen criticised the socio-economic plan of the opposition party: “You have withheld it for a month. Now I understand why. There is no CD&V alternative”.

That led CD&V MP Greta D’Hondt to reply: “You have had no time to read it. You needed the entire night to squirm over the new fiscal amnesty”.

Van der Maelen quickly dismissed the criticism and praised the government’s balanced budget, further reduction of the national debt, guaranteed financing of the social security system and social measures to assist those on benefits.

He also praised the plan to shift the burden of tax from labour to capital, stressing that it was a form of fiscal justice. He said it was only normal then for taxes to be imposed on investments.

But CD&V politicians Hendrik Bogaert and Luc Goutry said the workers who are already heavily taxed and those who are getting taxed on their investment funds are the same people.

Francophone CDH parliamentary leader Melchior Wathelet was primarily critical of the fiscal amnesty, claiming it was unjust that people who commit fraud can report their investments without fear of penalty.

Finance Minister Didier Reynders said the alternative was to allow people to continue committing fraud. He said the government was instead telling them to report their investment funds and pay the necessary tax.

At the start of the afternoon session, De Crem pointed out the decline of the Belgian welfare state and said the government’s policy statement was “a collection of good plans and vague intentions, inadequate to retain our prosperity”.

The parliamentary leader of the far-right Flemish Interest, Gerolf Annemans, said Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt only maintains the pretence of being a statesman. He criticised his decision to push ahead with reforms despite opposition from unions and employers.

In reply, Verhofstadt said emplyers should be made aware of the fact the Flemish Interest is a status quo party that wants to pit people against each other.

Wednesday’s debate came after Verhofstadt unveiled a balanced 2006 Budget on Tuesday and outlined plans to boost employment and restrict early retirement in his annual policy statement.

First pubished: 12 October 2005

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news