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Belgium

Belgium: Against blind Austerity, For an Alternative

Ahead of Belgium’s general strike on Monday, here’s some alternative ideas to austerity, courtesey of the main trade union confederation, FGTB

Belgium is bracing for a general strike on Monday. It will be led by Belgium’s FGTB trade union confederation.

“The financial crisis and the banking rescue have hurt the public finances. The credit rating agencies and the financial markets have taken power and are undermining democratic decision-making,” says the FGTB, which has over a million members in a country of around 10 million.

“The European Council and the European Commission (majority liberal and christian democrats) don’t have any valid proposals and in the absence of anything better are imposing generalised austerity on member states, including Belgium.”

The Belgian government “has no sustainable plan to revive the economy,” the FGTB adds. The Government’s plan, which includes raising the retirement age, cuts to unemployment benefit and essential public services like health as part of a Euros 11.3 billion cuts package, is “unbalanced” .

The FGTB says the austerity plan “makes workers and welfare recipients pay for the deficit instead of those who are responsible for the crisis.”

“Let’s mobilise on 30 January for alternatives and durable solutions and against blind austerity,” it says.

There is an alternative to the austerity policies pursued by its government and encouraged by the EU, ECB and IMF. Here’s what the FGTB proposes:

  • A plan for growth to provide quality, sustainable jobs: Euros 15 billion public investment in businesses, tied to the creation of jobs and investment in innovation and the real economy
  • A reversal of anti-social measures with respect to pensions, early retirement and unemployment benefits
  • The protection of purchasing power and welfare payments, through indexation and price controls, through guarantees for access to essential, quality services like health, and through a properly financed social security fund
  • Tax reforms to make the rich and and capital pay more: a better distribution of wealth can help fund public services and quality jobs. The FGTB’s proposed tax reforms imply an end to banking secrecy, a clamp down on legal avoidance and reintroduction of previously withdrawn/reduced taxes on companies and high incomes, it says
  • End to the poor financing of, and incessant attacks on public services, which are the real distributors of wealth
  • Create a genuine social Europe: The EU must stop “generalised” austerity that hurts economies, public services and welfare states; it must guarantee sustainable growth and assist member states in promoting policies that protect all citizens, regulate financial markets, harmonise corporate taxes. It must assist an exit from the current crisis through the issuing of Eurobonds, the imposition of a tax on financial transations (Robin Hood Tax) and guaranteeing a role for the European Central Banks of ‘lender of last resort.’

www.fgtb.be

About revoltingeurope

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

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