Monday 19 March 2007

When Belgian ministers show themselves green... behind the ears!

As the next Belgian elections will take place on the 10th of June, our current political leaders need to show off with the 'obtained results' of 4 years socialist government in Belgium (yes, it seems that there are also 'liberal' political parties taking place in the Belgian government, but an outsider would hardly notice it). As a result, they organised a great meeting in an impressive congress building in Leuven. This whole event took three days, but as it is always the case with Belgian governmental meetings, it looked more like a big media stunt to impress the ordinary people.

The Belgian government even has some more nice 'surprises' for its subjects. This Wednesday, the government will distribute - completely for free! - a book in which the great 'achievements' of eight succeeding years under the reign of Guy Verhofstadt (the first Verhofstadt-government (1999-2003) included also the ecologist parties) will be discussed. The interested reader can obtain the book, completely for free, in his or her local press shop. Take also carefully notice of the fact that, according to the current announcements, the book will only be available in Flemish shops. The government obviously didn't see any need to distribute the reading matter also in Wallonia. As if there don't exist Walloon parties who contributed to the health and welfare (please place between bold quotation marks...) of the Belgian nation! Of course they don't need to make the Walloon electorate take notice of the 'greatness' of the socialist-socialist (liberal???) government, since the Walloon socialist party holds an almost absolute majority in the WDR (Walloon Democratic Republic). In Flanders on the other hand, the traditional parties feel the warm breath of the secessionst party Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) in their necks. And even the christian-democrats show tendencies to advocate a greater autonomy for the Flemish region. As a result, it is only the Flemish who need to be brainwashed. That's the reason why this taxpaid book, probably, will only be found in Flanders.

But let's take a look at Leuven again. As I stated in previous articles on this weblog, the new political hero of the Belgian progressive elite is Al Gore. And yes, again Al Gore was present on the ministerial meeting. As our ministers are great advocates of a more environmental-friendly way of living, they came from introducing some 'Al Gore taxes'. A new fee will be charged on plastic bags (€3 per kilo), aluminium foil (€4.5 per kilo) and non-renewable (mostly plastic) cutlery (€3.6 per kilo).

The fiscal rebate for company-owned cars will be cut from 75% nowadays to 60%. On the other hand, the fiscal rebate for environmental-friendly cars will be enhanced from 80% nowadays to 90%. For private persons, there will be also a manner to pay less taxes, if they buy a car which produces less carbon dioxide. 'A measure without pleasure', as only 2% of the available models on the Belgian car market can be claimed for a fiscal rebate. As Kermit the frog already sang: it's not easy being green...

But underneath the tiny clot of green paint, the outsider can clearly see that the government has other purposes to fulfil with these measures. Filling the gap in the budget for example, which was estimated to be around €320 million. Thanks to these "environmental-friendly" taxes, the goverment expects to receive around €131 million. The other half of the gap will be filled thanks to higher economic growth, which improves the amount of fiscal revenues (at least our government got acquainted with the Laffer and Armey curves) And at the end of the day prime minister Verhofstadt proudly announced that Belgium reached a budgettary surplus of 0.3% of GDP. But Mr Verhofstadt remains reluctant to announce that according to statistics of the European Commission, Belgium has got a strucural budgettary deficit of 0.7% of GDP, due to 'solely budgettary measures' such as sell-and-rent-back-operations, pension funds take-overs, and so on.

And we've almost forgotten the most important measure taken at Leuven: every government building (since they sell it in order to have some money, there aren't so many more) will get its own solar panel, in order to produce - again... - 'environmental-friendly' energy. And as Belgium is ruled by a real Sun King (not the silent muppet Albert The Second, but prime minister Guy Verhofstadt), this may not be a hard nut to crack.

In the mean time, both the president of the Flemish socialist party Johan Vande Lanotte and the president of the Flemish regional government - the christian-democrat Yves Leterme - participated in a ridiculous and even shameful show presented by two drag-queens. In this show - broadcasted by the public-funded VRT (Vlaamse Radio en Televisie or Flemish Radio and Television in English) - those two 'honourable men of state' wore false long beards and acted as fools on an (artificial) island in the studio. Maybe that artificial island represented Belgium, and the fact that is doesn't matter whether you vote liberal, socialist or christian-democrat; you'll always be ruled by a fool. The fact that both Mr Vande Lanotte as Mr Leterme think that their electorate watch these silly television programs - not even as educational as programs for infants - shows their contempt for the 'ordinary' people. If direct democracy - as it already exists in countries such as (some states of) the USA and Switzerland - would be brought to Belgium, coxcombs as Mr Vande Lanotte and Mr Leterme would be blown away from the political map. Poor us.

Monday 12 March 2007

Come fly with me

Only three months before the Belgians will know who will reign their country, it seems that there is another candidate in the running who wants to become the new Belgian prime minister. In the Anglo-Saxon world he's known under the name Al Gore.

You don't need to interpret this too literally: Al Gore won't move from his cosy villa in Tennessee to the gloomy countryside of Belgium. But our current political elite is going nuts since the launch of An inconvenient truth, the disaster film which predicts the end of humanity when we - the bad Western people - don't stop adding carbon dioxide and other filth in the air. Even the Flemish Liberal Party - what's in a name... - toys with the idea to introduce 'environmental friendly taxes' (read: filling-the-gap-in-the-budget-friendly taxes)

But the Belgian government seems to operate following the device "listen to my words, but don't take notice of my deeds". This device was again the embarrassment of last weekend, as André Flahaut - the Belgian minister of Defense - went to Hasselt to view together with some other ministerial excellences Al Gore's movie. The question is: how did he get there? Before the movie got started, Mr Flahaut found himself in Brussels. There he ordered the army forces to send a helicopter to pick him up in Brussels.

As a result, an helicopter needed to ascend empty at the airport of Bierset, near the city of Liège. Then it had to fly to Brussels, where Mr Flahaut was waiting in order to get in it. And then the helicopter flew - together with the minister - to Hasselt, a city no more than 70 kilometers in the East of Brussels. As a result, the helicopter produced at least 12 times as much carbon dioxide compared when Mr Flahaut would go to Hasselt by car. From that point of view, our Belgian politicians also look much like Al Gore, whose flights to almost capital cities in the world can't be so environmental friendly. Secondly, the costs of this 'pretty flight' are estimated on an amount of €2,500. But as Mr Flahaut is a socialist, this cost must be defenitely an investment for the sake of 'the little, poor man', isn't it?

Friday 23 February 2007

The collapse of the Belgian social model

It mustn't be that funny to be a militant of a Belgian (Flemish or Walloon) socialist party just a few months before the federal elections will occur. The reason why is due to a report published by the Centre for Social Politicy (CSP) - a research institute linked to the university of Antwerp - and in which serious concerns are expressed about the future of the Belgian social model.

In its report, the CSP distuingishes four types of countries in the European Union according to two conditions: a) is the investigated country a poor country or a rich country? and b) is there a huge welfare redistribution/is there a large discrepancy between 'the rich' and 'the poor'?. The researchers of the CSP consider Belgium as a rich country with a lot of welfare redistribution. Other European countries that we can find in this category are the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, France and Germany. So all these nine countries all have a large social security system. The aim of the report is to investigate how the Belgian social security performs compared to those other countries.

And the conclusions that can be drawn from the report aren't that positive at all. For a start, the Belgian labour market performs dramatically. The employment rate is bellow the 'EU-9'-average, while the unemployment rate is equal to that of the EU-9 average. However, while this rate is lower in Flanders, it is soaring to incredible heights in the Walloon region and Brussels.

But there is more: as there is a lot of inactivity in Belgium, there are also a lot of unemployment benefits to be handed out. As the state has to distribute a lot of unemployment benefits, this will push down the value of each benefit. The result is poverty among the unemployed people. So what should be the best solution in that case? Getting a new job of course! But... how can thet get a job if the very same reports stresses the fact that taxation on labour force is also twice as high as in the rest of the EU-9? They are doomed to live their gloomy lives that are provided by the social (?) security (??) system. A system introduced by the socialist parties, who stand for the "rights of man"! Sic! By the way: the report underlines the fact that the risk to get poor is much higher in Wallonia than in Flanders. Another reason why the PS is the deadliest poison that could ever have spoiled the Walloon region and its people.

Finally, the report argues that social redistribution isn't always that fair as it seems. A certain 'Mattheus effect' is inevitable. The Mattheus effect - named after the New Testamentical Gospel of Matheüs - argues that social distribution sometimes flows from people with lower incomes to people with higher incomes. The Belgian pension system for example is full of those effects. As in the Belgian pension system every employee pays the pensions of the current elderly people, more money will be transfered to rich pensioners, because of the simple reason that they live longer and have more financial needs. You see, the Belgian social and socialistic model isn't that fair as it seems on the first sight. Undersigned can't wait for the moment that socialism will finally rotten in the dungeons of political hell, the only place where this horrible system deserves to be.

For those who are interested and perform well in the Dutch language can download the full report of the CSP by clicking on this link: .

Saturday 10 February 2007

When Damocles' sword is floating in the air

Laurette Onkelinx, the Belgian (Walloon) socialist minister of Justice (although socialism and justice are two conceptions that are as contradictory as water and fire) was this week's entertainer on the Belgian political Muppet Show. She caused a lot of upheaval (something she may cause very well...) after the launch of a new ministrial bill proposed at last Thursday's ministerial conference.

The bill of Ms Onkelinx intends to refine the law of 4 May 1999, which regulates the penal responsibility of legal persons such as enterprises and foundations. According to the law of 1999, legal persons as a whole can be judged after they commit a crime, and not only natural persons. But the so-called 'refinements' of Ms Onkelinx are just disastrous.

Her proposition states that enterprises who are condemned for a serious offence after already having a fine of €132,000 (i.e. a second judgement), should be closed for a period of 1 up to 10 years. According to the existing law of 1999, judges already can close down an enterprise for the same period, but only when an enterprise commits an offence against one particular kind of legislation. For example: when a producer of washing-powder disgorges his chemical waste in a nearby river, and causes serious harm to the environment, he could be seriously fined (and the reason why he could be fined is due to the fact that according environmental law chemical waste should be collected separately). And when he gets fined another time for the same reason, the judge can decide to close down his enterprise. But to Ms Onkelinx' opinion, it must be more 'easy' to close down enterprises: when an enterprise commits an offence against environmental law, and a second time against, let's say social law, he also risks to be closed down!

And together with a second aspect of Ms Onkelinx' proposition, the bill may become a fatally cocktail. This second aspect is called the 'decumulation of responsibility' in juridicial words. In fact, her propostion wants to end this decumulation. The 'decumulation of responsibility' means the following: when an offence is commited, it is always done by a natural person. Let's take again the example of the washing-powder producer: it's not "the company" - which is a legal person - that disgorges his chemicals, as the company doesn't have hands or feet to construct the pipeline to the river. The works need to be done by a natural person; a man (or woman) who has got hands, who can breathe and who can feel. When the offence is established, the judge can only prosecute the person who has commited the most serious crime: if the board of directors gave its direct permission to construct the pipeline, it will be the legal person who'll be prosecuted. But maybe the man who constructed the pipeline was just an employee at the company who wanted to take revenge after his best shirts shrunk due to the company's washing-powder. In that case the natural person will be prosecuted. Ms Onkelinx wants to end this principle of decumulation: both the legal and the natural person will be prosecuted, if there's a clear link between both persons. This means that legal persons will have more the risk to be judged because of faults made by individuals. And this isn't fair at all.

When this proposed bill would become law, starting or leading an enterprise in Belgium will be a hard game to play. Not only the risk that your company will be closed down will increase, but it will be harder to borrow money from a bank. Which banker would want to lend you some money when your company already received a serious fine, and risks to be closed between this and an early time? No one.

The fact that Ms Onkelinx' bill would be a bad thing doesn't mean that companies should go their way unpunished when that commit a crime. But there still a difference between a reasonable - though stern - penalty, and capital punishment (closing down an enterprise). The bill doesn't take any account of the possible social consequences of a closing-down: what about the employees, who'll be on the dole for one or more years? It proves again that socialistic anti-capitalistic enmity is the absolute goal to strive for, and this enmity even prevails over the jobs of thousands of people. Another reason why socialism is one of the worst ailments in society.

Astonishing is also the attitude of Belgium's prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, who's member of the Flemish Liberal Party. As a liberal (in its 19th century meaning), Mr Verhofstadt should completely reject this proposition. And it's also what he did Thursday morning. But in the afternoon, when some interrogations about the matter were planned in the federal Chamber of Representatives, he completely turned his mind as an ordinary weathercock. He defended Ms Onkelinx' propostion with fire and passion, and sneered at the christian-democratic opposition (because it was under christian-democratic reign that the first responsibility act established in 1999). The reason? It seemed that the king, who is the head of state in Belgium, already signed the bill (without the prime minister knowing it!), which means that the ministrial conference reshape the bill. The signature of the king doesn't mean that the bill will become law however: now it is up to the parliament to discuss the matter and whether or not to reject it. Which we'll hope they will.

With his attitude, Mr Verhofstadt proved again that he's no more or less than the butler of the Walloon socialists. Socialists, and Walloon socialists in particular, still see enterprises as an enemy of the "working class" which must be teased as much as possible. And when such a "fat and capitalist" enterprise got fined, it means a financial gain for the state budget. And with this extra gain, the (socialist) government can "invest" more money in our sluggish and wicked social insecurity system. And when there flows more money to social security, the people will be happy because the government grants it each month a fee. And then the people will vote for socialst candidates who can reinforce their power and at the same time play for Santa Claus. And this is how Wallonia - the French-speaking South of Belgium - currently works: unemployment stands at an incredible rate of 18% and almost 40% of the working people works for the government (education, administration,...). And at the same time, the Socialist Party is the biggest one in Wallonia. And the reason why the socialist minister Onkelinx can pass through such a malicious piece of legislation is due to the fact that the larger part of privately-owned companies is located in Flanders. And in Flanders, the Walloon Socialists don't have to seek after votes.

Saturday 27 January 2007

The return of Machiavelli's prince

When Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his masterwork Il Principe, he didn't refer to a prince, but to a powerful and ruthless ruler who could force the union of Italy. Machiavelli's philosophical work was a tribute to Cesare Borgia, who conquered the Romagna, a territory in North-Italy consisting of several city-states, in 1501. Borgia was known, and in his time even feared, for his ruthless and cruel way of ruling the state. He wasn't reluctant at all to commit murder, rape and robbery in order to get his goal.

It is often said that history exists of an accumulation of recurrent phenomenons (for example: when Louis XVI of France was executed, France became a republic. However, when Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor, France became a kingdom again.) And even these days we can establish that recurrent phenomenons are on the move. But the worce thing is that nowadays Belgium is the place to see those phenomenons. And the phenomenon is, o shiver and shake, the fact that Machiavelli's prince has returned!

Ironically, it is also literally a prince. Our Belgian crown prince Philippe.

So what has prince Philippe done that makes him a cruel absolutist? Well, last Wednesday King Albert II gave his New Year's speech to the political, judicial, diplomatic and journalistic elite of the Belgian kingdom. After the king's speech, the audience gathered into one of the rooms of the royal palace where a reception was organised. It was there that prince Philippe got involved in a discussion with two Flemish journalists. The prince told them that if they keep up saying and writing "negative stories" about him on television or in the newspaper, that they weren't welcome anymore at the royal palace. As such, we now know the prince's stance on freedom of press.

When prince Philippe refers to "negative stories", he means the reports that were announced in the news about his role during a trade mission in South Africa in March 2006. But it's not the journalists's fault that prince Philippe got a bad reputation, as it were the entrepreneurs themselves (who accompanied the prince) that said that the prince wasn't interested in the whole business there. It was even often said that the presence of a crown prince mostly opens doors in doing business, but that this one is better at closing doors. So why does the prince blame the journalists now, when the only person who's got to blame is... himself!

It's not the first time that crown prince Philippe makes clear his opinion when it's not needed at all. In 2004, when Philippe was on another trade mission in China, he announced this: "In our country there are people, parties such as Vlaams Belang, who are against Belgium and who want to destruct our country. I can assure you that they will have to deal with me! I could be very tough!" In February 2005, prince Philippe signed a petition made by the Belgian Federation of Enterprises (VBO), which was very critical for the Belgian government.

These are three examples - in no more than two years - that show that Philippe doesn't really know what a crown prince is. As Belgium is (theoretically) a constitutional monarchy, the head of state is supposed to take a neutral stance on political issues in order not to disturb political decision making. In this case, the head of state himself - which is still king Albert - hasn't done anything wrong at all, but the crown prince - who can succeed to the throne at any time - has. And this time the prince hasn't made a political opinion, but even behaved as a royalty of the Ancien Régime, denouncing every principle of freedom of press or freedom of expression. It might be very harmful to our civil liberties - if they still genuinely exist in Belgium - to let prince Philippe inherit the throne.

The day after the crown prince's remarks, a discussion followed in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives. Laurette Onkelinx (Walloon Socialist Party PS), the Belgian vice-prime minister, strongly rejected the prince's behaviour, but nevertheless the mental frontier between Flemings and Walloons in our federal parliament has risen again: while most Flemish deputies agreed that the king's role should be reduced at least to a ceremonial function (nowadays the king still has to sign bills voted by the parliament or government; is the upper commander of the Belgian army; appoints and fires ministers; and so on) , the Walloon parliamentarians state that changes aren't necessary. Hence we can see how Belgium works: both Walloons (more specifically: the Walloon socialist political elite) and the royal palace need Belgium in order to survive, whereas Flanders hasn't any advantage at all of maintaining this kingdom. And as Belgium is historically, institutionally, culturally and economically an artificial country, the defenders of Belgium and its dynasty will use every method - even when democratic rules are neglected - to maintain the system. You see, Machiavelli is alive and kicking!

Sunday 21 January 2007

Fighting racism or encroaching on freedom. What's the difference?

Last week, a man of Moroccan origin living in the Flemish city of Ghent summoned Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt (VLD, the Flemish Liberal Party) and minister of Social Integration and Equality of Chances (yes, quite astonishing that this competence exists, indeed) Christian Dupont (PS, the Walloon Socialist Party). The reason why this man summoned them is because he is of the opinion that he is a victim of huge discrimination, as it's already the fourth time that he isn't allowed entrance in a dancing while his (Flemish and white pigmented) girlfriend can go in and out whenever she wants to. Hence, he states that the Belgian government isn't acting stringent enough to fight racism and discrimination. And according to both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Belgian constitution, racism nor discrimination on grounds of religion, conviction, ethnicity, gender and sexual nature is allowed.

The political correct establishment - which currently rules Belgium - immediately showed its empathy towards this Flemish-Moroccan guy and other 'victims' of 'atrocities' committed by 'racist' and 'ruthless' Flemings. The socialist parties of both Flanders and Wallonia stated that a huge expansion of state control in order to fight racism is required. They proposed to make it possible that government's inspectors could go 'undercover' to find out whether or not racism exists. For example: a government's inspector - "disguised" as an allochtone - could apply for a job (this will be a false apply, however). If he (or she) finds out that he or she is discriminated, it will be reported to the authorities who will eventually take the necessary (judicial) steps to prosecute the company. Fortunately, this anomaly will not occur, since the council of ministers couldn't agree whethter or not only government's officials (such as civil servants or bailiffs) or also volunteers could go undercover.

But those evil racists will be punished. O yes, they will! The government has decided to draw a bill (which needs to be discussed and ratified by the Belgian parliament), which says that if an employer, shopkeeper or waiter deny access to an allochtone (or other kind of minority), and when the suspect is brought to court, the accuser doesn't need to prove that he's a victim of discrimination, but the suspect will have to demonstrate that he DIDN'T discriminate. It seems quite obvious that this is a serious harm against the legal principle that each suspect isn't guilty untill his offence is proved. And it seems even more obvious that this is a serious precedent that is able to undress the constitutional state, and even more, is able to establish dictatorship.

Of course there was serious objection in Belgium's Chamber of Representatives last Thursday. However, the only party that rejected the government's proposal was the right-wing party Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest). Even the Flemish Liberal Party VLD - which automatically should defend civil liberties - supported the government. This is not really a surprise, since the VLD delivers Belgium's prime minister. And that prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, accused the Vlaams Belang of inciting hate, xenophobia and racism. Mr Verhofstadt even stated that racism isn't a thing that's inherent to freedom of speech, and should be severely punished. And then we have to remind that Mr Verhofstadt once was a enthusiastic fellow of Friedrich Hayek and Margaret Thatcher. But these times are all gone...

It's true that racism is something condemnable. But instead of a grand repression mechanism for which the officials of the German Democratic Republic would even envy us, it would be a good thing to make civil society condemn racism. Secondly, it often happens that allochtonous (or other) job-applicants aren't recruited because they simply don't have the required qualifications. And as the only owner of a company is the boss and its shareholders, it should be up to them - and nobody else! - to decide who they will recruite and who not. The new arrangement (as it will be only a matter of time when the bill will be adopted by the parliament) is as such a serious threath to their property right.

Fortunately it will take only four months - until the 10th of June - that we have to scrutinize the despotic behaviour of our executive officials. On that date, the Flemish and the Walloons can - no, they must - go out voting. Let's hope that a fresh new wind, restoring our civil liberties, will blow through the streets of Brussels. But it's quite certain that we don't have to take this wish for granted, since Flanders' (and Belgium's) political parties are no more than copies of eachother: political correct and political correctest.

Tuesday 9 January 2007

When princes are brought to court

The Belgian - and mainly the Flemish - press reported last weeks that prince Laurent - who's a son of the present Belgian King Albert II, but not the crown prince - could be involved in a case of fraud. After Noël Vaessen, the former adviser of the prince, declared that the prince renovated his residence in Tervuren (near Brussels) on charge of the Belgian army, upheaval was caused in the Belgian press. To his opinion, it was a certain Marc Luypaerts, who lives in the province of Limburg and worked at the Belgian navy, and arranged the renovations of the prince's house and some of his chambers in the royal palace in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the public prosecutor of Hasselt (which is the main city of Limburg) requested a trial at Hasselt's (lower) court in order to clarify this case. Yesterday, this trial started its first day. And it will be a very unusual trial, because the prince himself will come to testimony about the things he knows, and the things he doesn't know. But Mr Vaessen - who's also an official in the Belgian army - must certainly regret his declarations in the press, because the judge found him guilty of collaring almost €2 million, and letting it through to Mr Luypaerts, who's already mentioned above. €300,000 of this amount was used to do the renovation works at the prince's rooms.

The crucial question now is whether or not prince Laurent is involved in this fraud case. According to Mr Vaessen and large parts of the public opinion he is, but according to other sources he isn't. We'll have to wait for the verdict to know.

But if the prince is involved - and if he would have an active role in it, it would be even worse - into this case, than it's an insult towards the Belgian (i.e. mostly Flemish) taxpayer. Since the Salic Law (which still refers to the famous law of the beginning of the 6th century) is abolished in Belgium, female royals could also inherit the Belgian throne. As a result, prince Laurent is ranked 11th to follow the present king and his father Albert II. Nevertheless, Laurent is granted an annual fee of 272.682,88 euro. Pity to live with such an embarrassingly little income, isn't it? Well, thanks to the taxpayer this amount is indexated every year. This means that the prince gets €312,000 this year. For doing... well, nothing in fact.

It isn't the first time that prince Laurent can't make ends meet with his small pittance. Last summer, the prince was about to sell two pictures of his new-born children to a gossip magazine for the price of €15,000. It were a better solution if the prince has to work for his money, like any other citizen. Or like his royal fellows in The Netherlands, where only the Dutch head of state (at present time Queen Beatrix) , the crown prince and his spouse get a fee by the state.

And even a better solution is a complete abolishment of this royal comedy. It is often said that the royal family is one of the only things that still binds Belgium together, and since it would be a better thing for both Flemings as Walloons to untie the Belgian knot, we can't wait to see the royals searching for another country to rule.