Nicolas Maeterlinck

“Flanders must become the champion of the post-corona era”, says Flemish PM

In Monday’s September Declaration the Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (nationalist) outlined his government’s plans for the coming year. Getting more people into work, a greater ambition when it comes to tackling climate change an a more efficient administration form the central planks of the Flemish Government’s plans. 

Mr Jambon said that the coronavirus crisis has “shook up our society but has not brought it to its knees”. The economy in Flanders is recovering and our region has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. “We now need to move ahead and set our ambitions yet higher”, Mr Jambon said.

Last year the Flemish Government launched the Flemish Resilience Plan, a 4.3-billion-euro investment plan to help Flanders prepare for the post-corona era. Now the Flemish Government is taking the next step by setting out a number of priorities for the coming years.

Mr Jambon said that the labour market is “an absolute top priority”. The Flemish PM told the Flemish Parliament that he and his government intend to achieve an employment rate of 80% of the working population. Climate change and a more efficient administration are two other priorities at the top of the Flemish Government’s list.

The many measures taken during the coronavirus crisis have left the Flemish Government coffers deep in the red. There is currently a structural budget deficit of 1.8 billion euro. Mr Jambon says that the intention is that this should have been halved by the end of the legislature (in 2024) and that the Flemish budget should be balanced again in 2027. 

Tighten our belts

In order to achieve this savings will have to be made. Child benefit will only be increased by 1% rather that 2% when an index-linked increase in benefits goes through (as will be the case at the end of this month). The stimuli given to employers to encourage them to employ people from groups that find it difficult to find work (for example older people) will be made more selective.

Meanwhile, the job bonus, a tax break for people on low incomes will remain and (as we reported earlier) the registration fee payable on a first home will be halved. The level of the registration fee on second, third, fourth,…homes is being increased. Mr Jambon believes that this will provide a stimulus to Flemings to purchase their own homes. 

However, the possibility to deduct the amount paid in registration fees on the first property purchased from the amount due in registration fees when you move to another property “will be gradually abolished”. 

PFOS pollution

Also, during his speech, Mr Jambon referred to the case of the PFOS pollution around the 3M plant at Zwijndrecht, near Antwerp.

"Companies should no longer think that they can deposit whatever they want into nature and that the people will pick up the bill. The days that companies could pollute the environment with impunity are over. Practices that lead to PFOS and other muck ending up in our rivers and in our soil must stop”, Mr Jambon said.  

A debate on the September Declaration will take place in the Flemish Parliament on Wednesday.

 

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