you're reading...
Belgium, Labour market reform, Pension reform, unemployment

While nation states and workers burn, the banks get a trillion euros

Belgian unions have criticised a fresh round of austerity measures announced over the weekend by the federal government as a missed opportunity for ‘tax justice’.

The government already plans as part of a €11.3 billion cuts package  agreed when the current administration took office at the end of 2011 to increase the retirement age from 59, balance its public sector budget by 2015 and raise an array of taxes.

Now it is planning to raise more taxes and postpone €1.82 billion of spending commitments, including on welfare, the promotion of generic medicines and foreign aid.

The coalition government plans to reduce its public sector deficit to 2.8% of GDP in 2012, from its 2011 level of 3.8% in order to meet EU demands for deficit reduction. If it fails to cut its deficit to a level of a maximum of 3%, it could face EU fines.

To justify more austerity, the government has opted to use the central bank’s forecast of a 0.1% contraction in the economy this year, instead of the more optimistic 0.1% growth predicted by the Federal Plan Bureau, which generally provides the estimates used in drafting budgets.

In 2011, Belgium’s economy, the sixth largest in the eurozone, grew 1.9%. A contraction would require greater savings than those already planned.

The FGTB trade union central, which led the first general strike in almost two decades on January 30, said that the measures had omitted any funding to turn the economy around, and contained no ‘significant’ initiatives to make the tax system fairer, something that could be achieved through a crackdown on tax avoidance, a wealth tax and a register of the rich. Promised funds for parental leave are now going to be withheld, it added.

The FGTB did, however, welcome a retreat from plans to axe automatic indexation of wages: ‘The government has listened to the demand of the unions, and the FTGB, not to touch  purchasing power.’  The FTGB also welcomed a temporary freeze on energy prices and a tax on the stock exchange, which it described, however, as ‘insufficient’

‘We fear the debate has been limited to competitiveness..and wage costs. We need a genuine growth plan that maintains and creates quality jobs and contributes, together with [Belgium’s] regional governments, towards building an economy that is more innovative and sustainable.’

The FTGB also called for action at a European level against austerity policies imposed on EU member states.

In its statement the FGTB ended with a question: ‘While nation states and workers burn, the banks get a trillion euros at 1% from the European Central Bank. Why?’

About revoltingeurope

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


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Twitter Updates

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Anti-social Europe in numbers


Key facts and figures on wages across the EU

Wealth Inequality in Europe

Get the key facts and figures


A different take on European issues

Italy’s Healthcare Crisis

Health services are ‘close to collapse’ in Rome, Turin and Naples after years of cuts and privatisation.

550 days, 29 Workers, Zero Job Losses

How a few determined Italian women stopped their factory closing and protected their livelihoods

Filthy Rich

France's Bernard Arnault of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) empire is worth $41 billion. Check out Europe's rich list


Private banks receive half-trillion-euro gift from ECB


Workers and citizens stand up for themselves


Workers are on a go-slow over privatisation

Popular resistance delivers results

Lessons from the victory against Madrid privatisation plan


Hundreds of workers occupied the factory of ArcelorMittal in Florange in the north of France

RSS Fight discrimination in Europe – Amnesty Int’l

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.


in Italy the home is a very dangerous place to be


Follow Revolting Europe on WordPress.com



Read the statement by Lafontaine and Melenchon

The Troika in Portugal – Three Years On

A success story?


The Dossier