Flemish minister president 'humble but proud' after budget deal, under severe criticism
The past few days have been "far from a great example of how we want to govern Flanders", but the Flemish government is presenting "an incredibly strong package for the benefit of our families and businesses", minister president Jan Jambon said in his annual September Declaration in front of the Flemish parliament.
Opposition parties and trade unions are unanimously unforgiving, describing the Flemish budget deal as "a lot of spectacle with little substance", "half a job" and "achieving nothing".
Jambon had to make the traditional September Declaration with a few days' delay after his government failed to agree on next year's budget and related purchasing power measures this week. Coalition partner CD&V (Christian democrats) demanded that child benfits be linked to the purchasing power index. Jambon's N-VA (Flemish nationalists) and liberals Open VLD didn't agree, hoping to avoid a budget deficit. CD&V was eventually forced to give in.
In his speech, Jambon referred several times to the past week's events. "Before you stands a humble man," he said, "because I realise that the process we went through as a government was not exactly pretty." He called Monday's display "painful", acknowledging that his "ego has taken dents", but that he "fought like a lion".
Nonetheless, Jambon is "proud" of the "incredibly strong package benefiting our families and businesses", he said. The package emcompasses 4 billion euros, plus 1 billion in loans and guarantees to support Flemish companies.
Opposition party Groen dismissed the declaration as "much spectacle and little substance" and lamented the "sad political show" of the past few days. The deal "ultimately delivers little extra for the Flemish people, except for a few days of false hope and more distrust in politics", said leader Björn Rzoska. With the growth package not increasing along with skyrocketing inflation, "rich Flanders will henceforth limp behind Brussels and Wallonia".
"For some, a balanced budget is apparently more important than families sitting out in the cold"
"So what did last week's show actually achieve for the Fleming? Nothing," said Hannelore Goeman, leader of social democrats Vooruit. According to her, Flanders continues to slash spending "on our children and families".
For the trade unions, the Flemish government is adequately addressing the "severe purchasing power crisis". "For some, a balanced budget is apparently more important than families sitting out in the cold," Christian trade union ACV said. "The government is doing half a job and leaving citizens to fend for themselves," socialist trade union ABVV added.
Flemish employers' organisations welcomed the energy support measures announced by Jambon. According to CD&V deputy prime minister Hilde Crevits, who played a crucial role during budget talks this week, there are many positive aspects to the budget agreement. "Should it have been even more? For us, yes, but what lies before us is a good agreement," she wrote on Facebook.
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