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Government did more than it was urged

Belgian Premier Elio Di Rupo has given a robust defence of his government’s efforts to come up with an extra 2.5 billion euros in extra savings and fresh revenue.

Flanked by no fewer than three Deputy Premiers Mr Di Rupo told newsmen that the government was acting like responsible householders and was remaining prudent and taking account of a possible deterioration in the economic situation.After seven days of hard negotiating the Coalition has agreed measures that yield 1.82 billion in extra savings and fresh revenue. 650 million euros has been set aside for a rainy day.

Mr Di Rupo insisted that consumers’ spending power had not been hit and that the competitive position of Belgian business remained intact. Belgium will also meet its commitments to the European Union.

The Prime Minister underlined that the Coalition was going further than advised: "The experts in the monitoring committee advised us to make savings worth 1.47 billion and to create a buffer of 500 million. Our efforts equal 1.82 billion and the reserve amounts to 650 million."

The monitoring committee took account of economic growth of 0.1%, but Belgium’s central bank has already toned this down to negative growth of 0.1% in 2012. This 0.2% difference corresponds to 350 million on the budget.

Mr Di Rupo reiterated his goal of a balanced budget in 2015. He was also keen to compare our 2.8% budget deficit with the 4.5% figure in the Netherlands: "Of all the countries where the deficit was above 3% we are the best pupil in the European class."

An upbeat Prime Minister pointed to the agreement on the 2012 budget, said that Belgium’s sixth state reforms were being implemented and pointed to the pension reforms that were now being completed.