"The way the government is treating its citizens is unfair"

John Crombez, the leader of the Flemish socialist party SP.A, lashed out at the government in his traditional socialist address on Labour Day. Speaking in the Vooruit in Ghent, Crombez said that it's always the same people bearing the brunt of the austerity measures, while the rich are being spared. The Panama Papers came back in various speeches and demonstrations.

"A good and happy life should not be something for a small group of privileged people. It should be possible for everyone. This is what 1 May is about. For more than 100 years. However, our ministers have not understood this very well." 

The SP.A are on the opposition benches, both in the federal and the Flemish government, after years in the coalition government. Belgium now has a right-wing government. The leftist SP.A claims the government could have found more cash among the better-off and the rich, e.g. via a capital gains tax.

The main complaint voiced by the SP.A and their green partners of Groen is that the strongest shoulders should bear more, and that always the same hard-working middle-class people are now being targeted by the spending cuts, austerity measures and new taxes.

"I wonder of you realise what people are expecting from you", Crombez addressed the Prime Minister. "Your policies should be fair, aimed at all the people, and you have to give hope to our youngsters. You are failing on all 3 accounts. We are really fed up, we need more fairness!"

Crombez slams security policy

John Crombez also slammed the government's security policy. He claims that jihadist fighters returning to Belgium from Syria, are not being monitored well enough. "It's not a question of discussing this, it just a necessity. This just needs to be done," Crombez told the VRT.

More cash should be invested in extra staff, to achieve this, Crombez added. He estimates the extra cost for this at about 200 million.

"We need a counter-poison"

Other socialist politicians also held a speech. Following are some quotes:

  • Bruno Tobback (former party head and Flemish MP): "We need a counter-poison for this government, more than ever. They wanted change, but change means nothing if not everyone benefits from it."
  • Peter Vanvelthoven referred to the Panama Papers, which revealed that many rich people parked cash on off-shore bank accounts, hiding their money from the Belgian taxman. "The government wants to welcome them back. If you steal two cans of beer in the supermarket, you receive a prison sentence, but if you evade a couple of million euros in tax evasion, you can buy yourself a good settlement."