Belgians pay too much for too few services, says top civil servant
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    Belgians pay too much for too few services, says top civil servant

    © Belga
    © Belga

    One of the country’s top civil servants has been giving a round of interviews on the eve of his retirement, and Frank Van Massenhove, head of the federal social security administration, is not mincing his words. “Belgium has become almost ungovernable,” is his conclusion after a career in the civil service, ending at the top of his profession, speaking in De Tijd. “We have an enormous number of government layers, and it has mind-bending consequences.”

    “People with a disability who apply for benefits have to address the social security ministry,” he said. “For a wheelchair, they have to turn to a Flemish agency, but if it’s a special kind of wheelchair they need to see the [medical insurance administration] Riziv. Nonsensical. The first and part of the second state reforms may have been necessary. The four that came after have been a disaster for the country, because they’ve only made everything more complicated and sometimes simply unworkable.”

    In a statement unlikely to find many disagreements, he says, “Belgians pay too much,” and receive too little for their money. “We pay as much tax as Sweden, but the Swedes get a far more performing state in return, with much better services. The result is that the Swedes don’t mind paying, while the Belgians have the feeling they’re paying too much for too little of quality.”

    Unfortunately, he sees little in the near future to offer some hope. Speaking to Knack magazine, he said, “Politicians only ever spring into action as we’re about to go over the cliff. The traditional parties have become so small that the loss of a few percentage points could mean they cease to exist altogether. They’re no longer trying to win over new voters, but instead trying not to lose any. So they’re terrified of anything that appears in the press, and concentrate on nothing but the fad of the day.”

    “From mobility to pensions to taxes, there’s a plan for just about nothing in this country. All political parties are against the government. This country is really badly governed.”

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times