The sorry gap between Flanders and Wallonia - Economic Policy

The sorry gap between Flanders and Wallonia – Economic Policy

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The Flemish (and European) philosophy of “activation” is diametrically opposed to the Walloon philosophy of the “right to assistance”.

In my book Wallonia, Flanders, I love you neither, I argued in favor of close cooperation between the Regions, the best way to bridge the gap between them in terms of prosperity. I must admit that the disenchantment between the north and the south of the country is only accentuating, to my great regret. I am not talking about the gap between the Walloons and the Flemings because this, if it existed, has been filled by the Covid-19. Many Flemish acquire houses in Wallonia, where they seek peace and greenery. For their part, the Walloons love the “Belgian” coast. In the surveys, the separatists remain in the minority.

The problem is not at the level of citizens, but of politicians. Flanders strives to follow the European philosophy that people have to be put to work in order to finance our socio-economic system and ensure its competitiveness. If they want to keep their unemployment benefits, the long-term unemployed must render services to the community. Even the 20,000 Flemings who benefit from the unemployment scheme with company supplement (ex-prepension) at 60 or 62 are encouraged to apply for a job and go back to work. These findings show that the objective of reaching an employment rate of 80% is taken very seriously.

This philosophy is just the opposite. policy in the south of the country. It is not jobs but unconditional assistance that is at stake in the political struggle between the left and the extreme left. Indeed, the various aids do not only guarantee votes, they constitute a business model lucrative. Since 172 million per year is not enough for trade unions to pay unemployment benefits, the competent minister increased this amount by 7.6 million euros at the end of 2021. At a time when digitalization is gaining ground and unemployment loses, I wonder why this budget has increased (rather than decreased). It goes without saying that Capac, the public service which does exactly the same work, has not seen its budget follow the same path. No (Walloon) rooster reacted. Besides, why is the payment of these payments entrusted to the trade unions in Belgium? There is no reason.

Apart perhaps from the fact that the unemployed constitute an alibi to work out all kinds of actions. For purely illustrative purposes, at the end of 2021, the Walloon government decided to allocate an additional 14.5 million euros to trade unions so that they can support young people who so wish – without them being subject to the slightest obligation, of course – , when there are already so many support mechanisms and organizations. Not only does this device called “boost” increase the huge Walloon budget deficit, but it is above all a boost for the budgets of the unions. Budgets of which no one knows the exact amount because they are not subject to the obligation of information which applies to all companies.

No, the citizen is not a separatist. Nevertheless, the Flemish (and European) philosophy of “activation” is diametrically opposed to the Walloon philosophy of the “right to assistance”. It is this gaping gap that most Flemings, but also Walloons, watch in dismay. If politicians and unions want the good of our country, it is this gap that they must fill. This requires a change of mentality. Shortages in the labor market offer a unique opportunity to change tack and allow companies to find personnel to fulfill their growth potential. For 86% of companies, the lack of qualified and motivated workers is the main obstacle to this growth.

In my book Wallonie, Flandre, je t’aime moi non plus, I advocated close cooperation between the Regions, the best way to bridge the gap between them in terms of prosperity. I must admit that the disenchantment between the north and the south of the country is only accentuating, to my great regret. I am not talking about the gap between the Walloons and the Flemings because this, if it existed, has been filled by the Covid-19. Many Flemish acquire houses in Wallonia, where they seek peace and greenery. For their part, the Walloons love the “Belgian” coast. In the surveys, the separatists remain in the minority. The problem is not with citizens, but with politicians. Flanders strives to follow the European philosophy that people have to be put to work in order to finance our socio-economic system and ensure its competitiveness. If they want to keep their unemployment benefits, the long-term unemployed must render services to the community. Even the 20,000 Flemings who benefit from the unemployment scheme with company supplement (ex-prepension) at 60 or 62 are encouraged to apply for a job and go back to work. These findings show that the objective of reaching an employment rate of 80% is taken very seriously. This philosophy is the complete opposite of the policy pursued in the south of the country. It is not jobs but unconditional assistance that is at stake in the political struggle between the left and the extreme left. Indeed, various aids do not only guarantee votes, they constitute a lucrative business model. Since 172 million per year is not enough for trade unions to pay unemployment benefits, the competent minister increased this amount by 7.6 million euros at the end of 2021. At a time when digitalization is gaining ground and unemployment loses, I wonder why this budget has increased (rather than decreased). It goes without saying that Capac, the public service which does exactly the same work, has not seen its budget follow the same path. No (Walloon) rooster reacted. Besides, why is the payment of these payments entrusted to the trade unions in Belgium? There is no reason. Apart perhaps from the fact that the unemployed constitute an alibi for developing all sorts of actions. For purely illustrative purposes, at the end of 2021, the Walloon government decided to allocate an additional 14.5 million euros to trade unions so that they can support young people who so wish – without them being subject to the slightest obligation, of course – , when there are already so many support mechanisms and organizations. Not only does this device called “boost” increase the huge Walloon budget deficit, but it is above all a boost for the budgets of the unions. Budgets of which no one knows the exact amount because they are not subject to the information obligation which applies to all companies. No, the citizen is not a separatist. Nevertheless, the Flemish (and European) philosophy of “activation” is diametrically opposed to the Walloon philosophy of the “right to assistance”. It is this gaping gap that most Flemings, but also Walloons, watch in dismay. If politicians and unions want the good of our country, it is this gap that they must fill. This requires a change of mentality. Shortages in the labor market offer a unique opportunity to change tack and allow companies to find personnel to fulfill their growth potential. For 86% of companies, the lack of qualified and motivated workers is the main obstacle to this growth.

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