Flemish budget only needs 20 to 50 million euros to balance
With the Flemish government’s budget control looming, some of the key issues to be tackled include additional funds for schools, road repairs after the heavy winter and possible cuts at the Flemish transport company De Lijn. The Flemish government will meet tomorrow evening to check if all is on track for the 2013 budget when minister-president Kris Peeters returns from his trade mission to Myanmar. Figures indicate that it could be plain sailing and pose fewer problems than the federal government has to contend with. The federal government hopes to raise 112 billion euros in income this year. To keep the budget under control, of which the largest part is being transferred to the regional states and social security, the federal government wants to raise 1.5 billion euros in savings or additional income. The Flemish government team, on the other hand, seeks only 20 to 50 million euros to balance its 27 billion-euro budget. Federal government estimates for Flemish allocations may well be 319 million euros less than expected, but on the upside the less than expected Flemish government expenditure during the first months of this year has basically closed the gap in the budget. And then there is also their savings fund for investments in one-off expenses or so-called FFEU fund, which may be used to invest in school buildings. It was initially intended for the elimination of dangerous spots on Flemish roads, but with 629 of the 809 ‘black spots’ so far being dealt with, education could well benefit. Groen party leader Elisabeth Meuleman puts the non-appropriated funds for roadworks at an estimated 160 million euros. With education high on Antwerp mayor and N-VA president Bart De Wever’s list of priorities, this could be great news for schools. In Antwerp there has been ongoing debate about the shortage of schools and the issue of Flemish assistance even when other needs exist: like the serious damage to roads due to the long winter which needs to be addressed. The only discussion about savings will concern the public transport company De Lijn. This week De Lijn’s new income plan will be discussed, with proposals to increase income through higher ticket prices being tabled.