The Socialist Party, PS, on Friday expressed opposition to plans being studied by the federal government to privatise public companies, describing privatisation as a poor budgetary calculation for which consumers will pay the price. The State would deprive itself of significant dividends at a time when interest rates are very low (the interest rate on Belgium’s debt is less than 1%), the PS said, adding that what the State would earn on the debt would be less than what it would lose in dividends.
The Government’s decision is purely ideological, the socialists charged. Consumers will pay more for the services provided by these companies, particularly public services; workers will see the quality of their jobs decline or could even risk losing them, and taxpayers will have to plug a new budgetary hole, the party warned.
The socialists feel the public sector should instead own a greater share in the companies. The answer to the question ‘to whom do the companies belong?’ should be ‘in part, to all citizens’ and not ‘only to the wealthiest’,” the PS argued.
The Workers Party of Belgium, PTB, also denounced the plans, particularly with regard to the railways. The privatization of the railways in Britain led to a decline in the service to the public coupled with a considerable increase in tariffs, it said, adding: “Forewarned is forearmed”.
The PTB also wondered at the responsibility of the parties in the Government (an idea expressed by a minister from the New Flemish Alliance, N-VA) when the issue was not part of their electoral programmes. “What is the democratic legitimacy of this proposal?” Michaël Verbauwhede, a Brussels regional parliamentarian, asked. J ason Bennett The Brussels Times