Friday, November 26, 2010

Possible Changes for Belgium

During the struggle to form a government and increasing warnings of financial danger the Royal Mediator Johan Van de Lanotte (of the Flemish socialists) has given the seven party leaders involved in the negotiations for a new government a document outlining possible changes to come to Belgium dealing with the funding of devolved authorities and transfers of power, still again, from the federal government to the regions and communities. Top question: what about taxes? No specific answer there only a proposal that Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels be able to decide some income tax levels on their own and that in future the people will have to pay a regional income tax as well as a federal income tax. Since my foreign education I have to say this does not immediately seem like a good idea to me. Where I am now there is no local income tax, only national and everyone is doing much better here than the rest of the country (lower unemployment is one example).

The proposals from the former Deputy Premier say that fiscal autonomy for the regions will gradually come into effect over a time of ten years and at the end the regions would have control of half of all income tax generated money. It is also proposed a progressive income tax so that the more one earns the more one has to pay. Again, seeing this play out in other areas makes me skeptical since the argument is that this discourages people to expand and succeed which could cause a stagnant economy. Also some environmental concerns are addressed by a proposal that regions which can cut down CO2 emissions and employ more people will get more money back from the government and those regions that do not do this will have financial sanctions as a penalty for failure. This part has caused some upset voices from the Francophone socialists of PS because they do not think Wallonia will compete very well like this and will be punished for it. My opinion then is maybe try someone else besides the socialists and stop the policies that have so much damaged the Wallonie economy.

Naturally almost everyone has some problems with the proposals and are suggesting changes, that is not to be a surprise. They have the greatest talent in the world for finding ways to disagree. Also there are proposals for legal changes that would make the regions responsible for taking care of the law courts, punishing young criminals and working on the big stack of court cases waiting and waiting to be heard. For healthcare 3 billion euros will go to the devolved authorities for child care, handicapped care and old age care. Regional governments also will get more power to deal with unemployment benefits and power to sanction people who have been unemployed so long they don't seem to want a job. Areas for instance animal welfare, traffic, disaster aid funds, tenancy laws and film controls also are proposed to go to the regions. What is left for national government? Who cares since EU will probably handle that anyway.

Is this a good direction? I don't know! Maybe it will help everyone stop fighting, arguing all the time but it also seems to make the national government less and less important so we are sort of less a country than two and that I don't like. Of course we are perhaps not supposed to understand it. Politicians have great talent in making simple matters extremely complicated.

No comments:

Post a Comment