Public spending cuts: Belgian Government praises budget of 'fine balances'

Public spending cuts: Belgian Government praises budget of 'fine balances'
Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck / Belga

The Belgian Government praised its new federal budget at a press conference on Thursday afternoon for offering the budgetary control “needed” to ensure the well-being of Belgium’s welfare state.

After a “rollercoaster week” of elongated negotiations, as described by Budget Secretary Alexia Bertrand (Open VLD), the Federal Government finally presented its budget for the next two-year period.

The amended budget had two main features: a €1.8 billion reduction in public spending and the introduction of a new minimum tax for multinational companies. According to the ministers, both features fall in line with two of their objectives: controlling the country’s finances all while protecting its welfare state.

The cut in public spending seemed to be a passion project for Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), having internally pushed for them during government meetings and the protests of left-wing ministers.

The equivalent sum of €300 million has been scraped in social welfare, pushing the government’s left-wing parties to threaten to block budgetary talks. However, the PM’s proposal to cut public spending was finally included in the budget which, according to Alexia Bertrand, shows how the Federal Government had reached "a fine balance.” 

The Pensions Minister Karine Lallieux (PS), who was standing in for the Covid-stricken Economy and Employment Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne, revealed that the government has decided to pursue a planned increase of the minimum pension. 

Related News

The hike had been under consideration for a potential cut but will now be raised to €1,600 per month in 2024, having first promised for the pension to only reach €1,500. Belgium’s Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit) applauded the effort, claiming that “there is no strong welfare without a strict budget” to boot.

The budget also included a planned 15% tax on multinational companies operating in Belgium, which should see the government gain an additional €334 million in its coffers. As explained by Federal Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem, the minimum tax will “send a strong signal to the financial powers” while also protecting Belgian companies.

Additionally, the Prime Minister announced that previously flouted changes to Belgium’s pension system and taxes should be announced before the summer, with Van Peteghem’s planned fiscal reform “ready to go.”

Copyright © 2024 The Brussels Times. All Rights Reserved.