29 August 2005
BRUSSELS – Every single household in Belgium could get a EUR 75 cheque to make up for the rising cost of petrol.
The proposal was announced by the liberal finance minster Didier Reynders (MR) in interviews on Saturday with the newspapers La Derniere Heure and Het Laatste Nieuws.
“We estimate that in 2005 the rise in petrol products will bring the state up to EUR 300 million in VAT and extra excise duty,” he said.
“With the prime minister, we want to reimburse that sum to the citizen.”
The plan would mean in November and December, each of Belgium’s 4 million households would receive the money – whatever the type of heating used in the home.
The amount would either be discounted from a person’s tax deduction or given in a cheque if a household did not pay taxes.
Reynders said the government also intended to force oil companies to accept payments in 12 monthly instalments, rather than in one lump sum as now – “a sort of interest-free loan”.
The minister also promised a rise in tax incentives to those who undertook energy-saving measures such as better insulating their homes or buying more efficient boilers.
The left wing of the government’s coalition, however, has frowned on the proposals, arguing for measures which do more to help Belgium’s poorest families.
The francophone socialist party, the PS, and the Flemish SPA party argued against awarding the same sum to every household, stating amounts should be calculated based on a household’s income.
Vice prime minister Laurette Onkelinx said EUR 75 was “for the rich, and notably for Mr Verhofstadt and Mr Reynders, the price of a vase in their country house. It’s important to give more to those for whom that really means something.”
Both parties also wanted to see petrol firms with large profits contributing more to energy problems.
Nor did the ‘petrol cheque’ meet with approval from the French-speaking Christian social party, the CDH. It argued for all the extra taxes from higher petrol and oil prices to go towards Belgium’s fuel fund which gives state aid to those in need. The CDH said those eligible for the fund should be reviewed so that aid reached “those who really need it, rather than sprinkling about meagre sums as the MR president proposes”.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news