Stefaan De Clerck, the former government minister who is now chairman of the board of telecoms giant Proximus, has argued for the removal of the salary cap on the chief executives of state-owned companies.
Speaking on the VRT’s weekend politics programme De Zevende Dag, De Clerck said Belgian businesses were being held back by their inability to compete with companies in other countries.
Earlier this week his own CEO, Dominique Leroy, announced she will not renew her mandate when it runs out in December, but will instead take up the post of CEO of the Dutch telecoms company KPN. In doing so, she sees her basic annual salary increase by 112,000 euros in one fell swoop.
Some have used the occasion to call for an end to the salary cap, which applies to Belgian companies where the state holds a major interest, and fixes the ceiling on executive pay at 650,000 euros – slightly higher than the 523,000 euros Leroy was earning. An end to the cap would allow Belgian companies to attract the best executive talent, and retain the talent it already has, supporters of the change argue.
“Everyone knows this is a difficult point,” De Clerck said. “Salaries elsewhere are much higher. You start off the search for a CEO with a handicap.”
Leroy became CEO of Proximus after sitting on the board, on the departure of the late Didier Bellens who had left after a series of scandals, one of which was his demand for an inflated salary critics pointed out was higher than the then-prime minister’s. It was at that point that the salary cap was introduced by the government of Elio Di Rupo.
He did however admit that in theory the law allows the board of directors to set aside the salary cap, but only on consultation with the government. But with the government still holding 53% of the shares, the proposal would be unlikely to pass.