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Belgian greens suggest hospitality sector rescue plan

Credit: Belga

The francophone green party Ecolo has drawn up a rescue plan for Belgium’s hospitality industry, it told the House of Representatives on Monday.

The hospitality industry was hit hard by the new coronavirus (Covid-19), as bars, cafés and restaurants were forced to close due to lockdown restrictions.

Ecolo is advocating for an amendment to the bank guarantee law to make it more accessible to the sector. “One of the criteria for exclusion from access” to bank guarantees “is the absence of late payment by the ONSS, making them inaccessible to many” establishments in the hospitality industry, according to Ecolo. The ONSS is the national social security office.

They also called for a tax credit for lessors of 50% of commercial rents not collected during the months of confinement. A special effort to suspend rents will be requested from public authorities owning hospitality industry premises.

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Furthermore, Ecolo want a six-month extension of temporary unemployment for the sector, and a temporary VAT (value added tax) reduction via a tax credit.

“In order to absorb the losses incurred during the weeks of confinement, restaurants will have to be able to increase their profit margin. However, they will not be able to increase their prices excessively, at the risk of driving away their customers,” the party said.

“We therefore propose to grant them a VAT tax credit, i.e. to be able to benefit from a refund of the amounts of VAT collected,” they said. “This tax credit would be degressive over a period of time to be determined, to be adjusted according to the total amount lost as a result of the crisis.”

“The hospitality sector consists of non-relocatable employment,” said Ecolo deputy Georges Gilkinet, who added that the sector is a “link in an indispensable economic chain that starts from the producing farmers, through the brewers and suppliers of specific services, and ends with the tourist sector.”

Finally, the Greens proposed the introduction of a so-called social maribel (government support of employers) for the sector, “allowing establishments to temporarily reduce the social contributions due for their workers, while preserving the rights of the latter” and the automatic reduction of insurance premiums and energy subscriptions during containment.

“If we want to avoid massive job destruction and cascading bankruptcies, now is the time to act. We put these proposals on the table to launch the debate and call on all levels of government, starting with the federal government, to take them up,” concludes Georges Gilkinet. 

The Brussels Times