One week after the triple election and before any new regional or federal government is formed, Belgium is facing a bill of 14 million euros.
The reason? The elections saw the departure, either willingly before the polls opened or unwillingly after the results were in, of no fewer than 67 former members of the federal parliament, according to a calculation by newcomers PDVA.
And that could present a problem, the far-left party argues, since the parliament’s budget only allowed for payments of 3.7 million for departing members.
When a sitting member leaves the federal parliament, they continue to be paid their basic salary of 9,742 euros gross per month, as well as standard expenses such as administrative costs. Depending on their length of service prior to leaving, the payments can continue for as long as 48 months.
“We need to scrap this system, quite simply,” party chair Peter Mertens told De Morgen. Departing parliamentarians can receive as much as 450,000 euros. That sort of political privilege is unacceptable. How are we supposed to explain MPs who are still having 6,000 euros a month paid into the bank four years after the end of their term? The voters quite rightly will not accept it, and that too was part of the signal they gave out last Sunday.”
PVDA is suggesting a new system: the same as used by every other employee in the land: pay into the social security system, and when the job is over apply for the same benefits as anyone else, under the same conditions. And it goes further. The party is also looking at ways in which the payments currently due could be capped.
The Brussels parliament, meanwhile, faces a similar problem. There, 53 of the 89 members pre-election will not be returning, among them many familiar names of members who have been there since the parliament was set up in 1989. For the six members with more than 20 years service, among them former minister-president Charles Picqué, the 48 month total applies – Brussels parliamentarians receive the same salary as their federal colleagues. But even a member who was only in place for one term will receive a salary of 9,742 euros a month for 10 months.
The Brussels body has made one change, however: the longest period for which a salary can be paid has now been reduced to 24 months instead of 48. However since there were a number of members at the time of the change who had already qualified for the full amount, they are allowed to keep it. Those who reached or will reach the 20-year mark after 2014 will be limited to 24 months salary – still a not too shabby 467,000 euros in all.