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Bart De Wever: “The pension agreement doesn’t propose anything; it is not quantified and pushes us further into the abyss”
Party chairman Bart De Wever was quick with his first criticism of the De Croo government’s pension agreement. “It was necessary, because almost the entire Vivaldi majority is not defending this deal. Except for the PS party, because this agreement is tailor-made for it, like just about everything this government does.” Bart De Wever is harsh in his judgement: “This is culpable negligence. We are teetering on the edge of the budgetary abyss, and the Vivaldi government is taking yet another step forward.”
“The cost of ageing is an immense and acute problem. In the coming decades, that cost will rise to a bill of tens of billions of euros a year, an extra amount we will have to raise to give people who have worked a comfortable old age. We cannot afford that. Our debts are exploding, and the budget deficit is just about the highest in the entire developed world. What is this government doing? It is concluding an agreement that adds another EUR 2 billion to the pension bill. That is simply culpable negligence,” Bart De Wever says.
16 years of work
“The liberals pride themselves on having 20 years of work as a condition for the minimum pension, but if you look at it more closely, it is about four-fifths. So that’s 16 years. And there are still ample equivalent periods. At the end of the day, someone who has worked for 16 years and has occasionally been incapacitated for work during that period can receive the same pension as someone who has worked for 45 years on a modest wage.”
“Belgium remains the only country in the world where unemployment is a choice, which you can sustain for life at the state’s expense and for which you can also receive a pension. The PS party likes to hear all that.”
Only, no malus
According to Bart De Wever, the so-called Swedish coalition did take courageous decisions to curb the costs of ageing. Together, they account for a reduction of the bill for ageing of two per cent of, or about EUR 10 billion. This includes steadily increasing the legal retirement age and abolishing the pension bonus. “The Vivaldi government is reintroducing the latter. Even Frank Vandenbroucke once said that this bonus does not work. If you only introduce a bonus and do not provide a malus, you will only increase costs.”
“The N-VA has always assumed that 45 years worked led to a full pension and 30 years for a minimum pension, where long-term unemployment is also treated as an equivalent period. When I heard Egbert Lachaert say last summer that he thinks 20 years is enough for the minimum pension, the bar is already being set on the ground for the PS party even before the negotiations start. Moreover, all the benefits had already been increased at the time at the request of the PS party.”
“I’m not working on this any further”
In 2024, Bart De Wever wants to putfirmly on the table. But the challenges surrounding the cost of ageing are not yet gone. Yet Bart De Wever speaks in crystal-clear language: “I am no longer interested in simply governing this country under these conditions. We are heading straight for the abyss. The figures are downright dramatic. Our Flemish prosperity is under enormous pressure, the purchasing power of working Flemish people is being reduced and transferred to those who do not work. I will not spend another day on that.”
“The idea that you don’t have to work in this country to have a full income and pension, as the only country in the world, while we are heading for bankruptcy, that must be taken off the table. If the French speakers think it’s such a great idea, they should finance it themselves,” Bart De Wever concludes.