Following a series of scandals and an ongoing investigation into potential financial mismanagement which led to an overspend of €30 million during renovation works, the Walloon government is set to severely limit the parliament’s budget for 2023, Le Soir reports.
From a current budget of around €82 million, the new operating budget will be cut down to €71.5 million. Jean-Claude Marcourt, the current speaker of the parliament, confirmed that Minister-President Elio Di Rupo had requested the reduced budget.
Against a backdrop of overspending, the regional government has asked the parliament to curb its spending in the face of the energy crisis. Given the massive amount of money wasted on renovation works to the House of Parliamentarians and the site’s car park tunnel, opposition to the new budget cap has been limited.
The savings affect almost all areas of expenditure. Sandrine Salmon, who replaced the disgraced former Clerk Frédéric Janssens in September, said that these cuts were likely to have a series of unintended consequences.
“The reduction could weaken the reserve fund essential for the complete renewal of the parliament... as well as the capitalisation of the retirement fund,” she told Le Soir.
Tackling runaway costs
In November, the parliament voted to create an independent committee of accountants to better control expenditure. At its first meeting, the new budgetary constraints were reported to be at the heart of the committee discussions.
Walloon politicians seem uncertain about how the budget had been allowed to skyrocket, despite there already being an oversight mechanism through the Bureau of the Assembly and budgetary debates. Yet this oversight was found to be unsatisfactory.
The 2023 budget will still be heavily impacted by the cost of the House of Parliamentarians, which will ultimately cost more than €46 million – four times the amount initially planned. The parliament’s “amenities” allocation will be around €6 million, down from €18 million in 2022. This will be spent on furnishing and equipping the new building.
Although the budget for most renovations and operational costs has been lowered, the budget for wages has risen significantly, in line with wage indexation. The budget for payments to staff will rise from €8.5 million to €9.5 million next year. A new recruitment plan is also underway, with 17 planned appointments.
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In response to the nationwide demand for fiscal prudence, it is possible that politicians at all levels of government in Belgium will eventually see a reduction in their salaries. First proposed by Alexander De Croo in October, the salaries of ministers and deputies could fall 8% from the start of next year.
This is currently being discussed in the Walloon parliament, with the head of Wallonia’s largest party (PS) Paul Magnette declaring himself favourable to the reduction. New budgetary rules have also been proposed to correct insufficient controls on spending and to increase transparency at the Walloon Parliament.