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Belgium

Belgians march against “blind austerity”

Today thousands of Belgians were on the streets demonstrating against a brutal austerity budget and neo-liberal ‘structural reforms’ to pensions and the labour market.

The unions called the demonstrations against the measures that are designed to cut the deficit by Euros 11.3 billion in 2012.

The FGTB, one of Belgium’s largest unions, says that “Blind austerity is not inevitable.  The bill shouldn’t be paid by the weakest, or by future generations. Austerity is not a solution. It will only aggravate the problem. ”

“What we need to do is to invest in relaunching sustainable growth and look for money where it lies.”

The FGTB says there is an alternative:

Quality work for all

  • Create jobs, pay decent wages, give work to everybody
  • Maintain older workers in work rather than firing them
  • Train workers whose jobs are at risk rather than fire them
  • Stop forcing young people into precarious work contracts – give them proper jobs
  • Boost public and non-commercial sectors – they sustain the economy

Seek money from those who have it:

The union calculates that the Belgian state gave Euros 10 billion in tax advantages to Belgian companies in 2010 while the 20 largest listed firms made Euros 13 billion in profits. A chief executive earns on average 18 times more than a worker. Pierre Mariani the CEO of Dexia, the bank bailed out in 2008 and then nationalised on October this year, pocketed Euros 1.8 million in 2009 and Euros 1.6 million in 2010.

What needs to be done:

  • Fight genuinely against tax fraud as well as employers who don’t pay social security payments for their employees
  • Increase taxes on wealth and capital accumulation instead of labour
  • Tax financial transactions and parasitical speculation in the economy
  • Tax “superprofits” and end “pointless” tax advantages for business
  • Put a break on techniques used by businesses to avoid taxes

A radical tax reform with new taxes on high incomes and capital would raise the Euros 11.3 billion that under current government plans will be largely paid for by workers, the FGTB says :

  • Fight against tax fraud: Euros 4 billion
  • Changes to taxes on financial revenues: Euros 3 billion
  • Removal of reduced rates of corporate tax: Euros 120 million
  • Eliminate certain tax “niches”: Euros 4 billion
  • Reintroduction of 52.5% and 55% tax brackets & abolition of tax-efficient corporate structures (“management companies”): Euros 200 million
  • Other fiscal measures: Euros 200-600 million

Total : Euros 11.5 billion

There is an imbalance between new taxes, which must be sought from capital, and spending, which hits those on low and middle incomes.

The financial markets are out of control. Thanks to them we are down and out. After having distributed huge dividends and scandalous bonuses they make us pay for the mess.

(FGTB leaflet on the 2012 budget)

More:

FTGB website

Reuters with details of the 2012 budget

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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