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Experts antagonize politicians - PC Trends

Experts antagonize politicians – PC Trends

Two reports will feed the reflection this summer… even if the MR has already decided: “insane!”. What’s more, the De Croo government is in the middle of a deadlock with a PS playing in defense.

Two expert reports will fuel the political debate throughout the summer. And shake up a federal government that is definitely struggling to deliver major reforms. Presented two days apart, at the beginning of July, the proposals in terms of purchasing power and taxation immediately aroused strong reactions, proving the importance of taking decisions in this period of major inflationary crisis. While putting the finger on the impotence of the team of Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo (Open Vld). The experts say they “did the job”.

Two expert reports will fuel the political debate throughout the summer. And shake up a federal government that is definitely struggling to deliver major reforms. Presented two days apart, at the beginning of July, the proposals in terms of purchasing power and taxation immediately aroused strong reactions, proving the importance of taking decisions in this period of major inflationary crisis. While putting the finger on the impotence of the team of Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo (Open Vld). The experts say they “did the job”. The first report, devoted to purchasing power and competitiveness, was written by seven university professors under the direction of Pierre Wunsch, Governor of the National Bank. It contains around ten measures: reductions in consumption (speed at 100 km/h on motorways, reduction in heating, limitation of the petrol card to business trips, etc.), targeted aid for low and medium incomes, taxation of excess profits of energy distributors or revision of automatic wage indexation. “We have mainly focused on next winter, which is likely to be particularly difficult, with perhaps supply-related risks,” says Bertrand Candelon, professor at UCLouvain. The second report outlines the foundations of the tax reform which will soon be presented by Minister Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V). He proposes a tax shift by reducing and simplifying labor taxation (but without giving precise figures) while ending the “proliferation of special regimes”, which would mean abolishing or redesigning meal vouchers or company cars. Among the tracks, they also suggest taxing rents or increasing the VAT on meat. “The report does not say anything other than what international organizations have been saying for 30 years,” argues Edoardo Traversa, professor of tax law at UCLouvain. If the ecologists consider in both cases that it is a “good basis for work”, the president of the MR, Georges-Louis Bouchez, immediately lit the fuses. “If I understand correctly, he quipped, we are entitled to the abolition of gas cards, to speed limits on the highway, to taxing rents, taxing meat, and I’m going on. At this rate, we’re literally going to rob people and on Friday, we’ll just have impoverished everyone, here’s the result. It’s insane!” The exit prompted an outraged reaction from Mark Delanote, professor of tax law at UGent and president of the second group of experts: “Apparently, it is fashionable to put everything that comes from the experts aside and demolish it because it does not immediately fit into his own political program”. The two men certainly found themselves in a more constructive dialogue for the daily press of the weekend, but the chasm is yawning between the academic world and the elected officials. In the ranks of the federal Vivaldi, Georges-Louis Bouchez’s outings against the experts have once again aroused exasperation, while his supporters accuse the groups in question of being mainly composed of personalities with leftist sensitivities. “I’m sorry, but our president has every right to react as he did, says Corentin de Salle, director of the Jean Gol center, the MR research department. The experts use their knowledge to draw up conclusions. He It is obviously legitimate for them to make recommendations on this basis, but it would be naïve to believe that it is necessarily neutral. They do so as citizens, by engaging in public debate and they must accept as such “to be subject to criticism. Politicians have the legitimacy of the ballot box to decide and take into account all the dimensions of the choice: values, the capacity for social acceptance, the budgetary means available, etc.” “Georges-Louis Bouchez’s reaction is a political disaster”, believes on the contrary the economist Philippe Defeyt, former federal secretary of Ecolo, now at the head of the Institute for Sustainable Development, who participated in the “purchasing power” working group. “Our counterparts who have worked on the tax side are proposing many liberal measures, in the proper sense of the term, he explains. If even the liberals themselves no longer believe in market mechanisms…” Formerly active on Politically, Philippe Defeyt observes that it is much easier to get along between experts than between parties: “This is the third time that I have taken part in such a group to clear up political action. Each time, I I was struck by the speed with which people, despite their different sensitivities, reached agreements. It is of course impossible for experts to make decisions: that remains the responsibility of those who have the democratic legitimacy to do so. But I must note that at the political level, the leaders no longer speak to each other enough, they camp on their partisan interests. In tax matters, notes the economist, there is a broad consensus to lower labor taxation. “But when we start talking about the means to achieve this, by increasing the exempted quotas or by tax credits, the debate ignites. The same thing when we talk about tax advantages. However, we could ensure that nobody loses, or almost, with the exception perhaps of a few senior executives.” Philippe Defeyt recognizes that there is perhaps a problem of trust between politicians and citizens to reform in depth: many are those who indeed fear being “robbed” in the adventure. “But there are ways to solve it. In Switzerland, for example, they gave a check at the beginning of the year to guarantee compensation. Our system has become too complex. ‘foreign.” Edoardo Traversa, professor at UCLouvain and member of the group of experts who worked on the tax reform, was also outraged by the ax of the liberal president. “Our report indicates what there is to do to limit tax loopholes and work towards fairer taxation, he justifies. On this basis, it is necessary to see how much we can reduce taxation on work. The current problem is that we give rents to certain sectors and we prevent others from developing. We are defending particular interests against the general interest. However, we have difficulty to recruit teachers, nurses, so many fundamental people for society… and these are not workers who have a company car. It is all the same difficult not to make the balance between the most big opportunity that we offer to a framework and the revaluation of these professions. Tax reform is also a choice of society!” Edoardo Traversa readily admits that the report lacks numerical projections. “The normal reaction of everyone is to ask themselves what we risk losing and how this can be compensated, he underlines. But our report does recommend compensating for losses. no question of abolishing company cars in the broad sense, but of ‘salary cars’: we have accustomed people to living beyond their means with vehicles that they could not afford to buy in normal times In this case, it is a state subsidy for an advantage that is not necessary. It is a bad signal from all points of view, including for the environment. We cannot maybe not make up for it down to the last carat, but by changing the tax rates on labor you can give more wage freedom.” The professor of tax law illustrates his point: “If today we have a company car at 80,000 euros, we will perhaps switch to a car at 40,000 euros in the new regime: 10,000 euros would make it possible to revalue d “other professions and 30,000 euros of net salary increase would give the possibility of carrying out another project, such as buying a house in Spain. In the end, the loss is not huge.” “The political reactions do not surprise me, continues Edoardo Traversa. In current Belgian politics, a vicious circle prevents us from acting in a clear and broad way. The relationship between the political world and the experts continues to deteriorate. Some are simply disgusted with what is being done with their work. The existing expert committees, such as the High Council of Finance, have been constantly politicized over the years. Partisan interests take precedence over self-interest general. Most reforms are built on sand. Where have the expertise gone within the parties? Too many politicians express themselves on everything, wrongly and through.” The experts hope, however, to have done useful work and to have sown ideas that will punctuate future debates. “The political context is not favorable to hope for a reform in the short term, advances Edoardo Traversa. But this report constitutes an important step towards a tax system that is more understandable, fairer and more sustainable.” “The fate of these reports is not clear, agrees Philippe Defeyt. Nothing may come out of them in the short term, but these ideas will remain on the table.” “We are here to fuel the democratic debate, hoping that this will lead to decisions”, hopes Bertrand Candelon. These expert reports, however, arrive within a Vivaldi in full doubt. In its ranks, there are now fears that it will no longer be able to decide beyond emergency measures. “At seven parties, we already knew it would be a mess, squeaks a well-placed source. Over time, we realized that the government agreement had been botched when it was written: there are still too many arbitrations to be made. The De Croo method poses more and more problems, with its councils of restricted ministers which last until the night, two or three times a week. The PS has made it clear that it is no longer asking for large reforms, particularly in the area of ​​taxation. So we wonder what we are going to do for the remaining two years…” The PS is content to defend the social achievements, pushed in the back by the PTB . Fatalistic, our interlocutor sighs: “It may seem cynical, but a resumption of the covid epidemic would perhaps be the only element likely to close ranks.” So, to tell the truth, expert reports…!

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