Aid to workers affected by containment will amount to 8-10 billion euros. At least. A measure as important as it is unexpected.


Aid to workers affected by containment will amount to 8-10 billion euros. At least. A measure as important as it is unexpected.

From our correspondent Max HELLEFF (Brussels) – The end of a world, the start of a new era. The formula is looped in the media trying to understand the cataclysm caused by the coronavirus and to learn the first lessons.

Another revolution happened on Friday. Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès’ federal government has unveiled a “social and economic protection plan”. Or a set of emergency measures intended to cushion the shock that Belgian companies are taking in these times of pandemic, but also to support all those who have been unemployed in recent days. The first estimates assess their cost between 8 and 10 billion euros. It will be much more, several experts already believe. A fortiori if the confinement continues beyond April 5 and puts a whole section of the country’s socio-economic activity to sleep.

Launch of the Economic Risk Management Group with the G10, under the chairmanship of MM. Wunsch and Vanthemsche. The ERMG will analyze the socio-economic impacts of the #Coronavirus, determine the crucial economic activities and propose concrete actions to be carried out.

– Sophie Wilmès (@Sophie_Wilmes)
   March 19, 2020

Flagship measure: the ceiling for benefits in the event of temporary unemployment is raised from 65 to 70% of gross salary. According to the Minister of Employment, the Flemish Christian Democrat Nathalie Muylle, “this amounts to an additional amount of 150 euros gross per month for each unemployed person” The various forms of unemployment currently concern 671.00 people. This number could quickly rise to 800,000. A heavy blow for the country which had been delighted for several years by the drop in “unemployment”.

Still other measures. Late payment penalties are eliminated for companies that have contracted with the federal public services; restaurants that prepare take-out will benefit from regulatory and tax flexibility; negotiations with the social partners have been initiated to allow flexi-jobs to continue to function in the event of temporary unemployment; it is also a question of authorizing transfers of personnel between the sectors in the future in order to maintain the activity.

8 to 10 billion euros: the amount is enormous. It underlines the will of the Wilmès government to go beyond accounting quarrels to come first to the rescue of those who have lost their jobs – perhaps permanently. To make a comparison, this amount is close to the federal deficit in federal Belgium estimated at 12 billion euros. This one should therefore exceed 20 billion euros and finally get out of the nails set by the European Commission.

It was by gaining confidence in the House on Thursday that the ex-government Michel was able to adopt this “social and economic protection plan”. Six opposition parties support the minority executive now led by Sophie Wilmès while granting it special powers in the fight against the coronavirus.

The Minister of the Interior decided this Friday afternoon to establish border controls. For Pieter De Crem, the goal is to minimize travel within the country but also between Belgium and its neighbors.

Another spectacular decision: the border closure decreed on Friday by Interior Minister Pieter De Crem will not affect cross-border workers. However, they will have to produce a certificate from their employer to move from one state to another. Nor does the measure hinder the movement of trucks or the return of Belgian nationals to the country.

This decision will undoubtedly leave traces in the sometimes tumultuous relations that Belgium and the Netherlands have. Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte wanted to keep the borders open. But the presence on Friday on Belgian territory of hundreds of his compatriots who were not worried about the confinement rules – to which they are not bound in their country – convinced the Belgian authorities that great means should be used.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to our 5pm newsletter.

On the same subject

An anticoravirus government in Belgium

The government, in a minority in Parliament since the end of 2018, obtained the confidence of a majority of deputies on Thursday to devote itself exclusively to measures intended to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Belgium confined until April 5

The kingdom imposes a general confinement from this Wednesday noon until April 5 to restrict the movement of people. As with its neighbors, the objective is to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here