In Belgium, the salaries of ministers are debated in a period of runaway inflation

LETTER FROM BRUSSELS

It is a full box that Mathieu Michel, the Belgian Secretary of State for Digitization, has made, quite inadvertently, with a short sentence uttered during a televised debate. Asked about his salary, the French-speaking liberal civil servant, brother of the President of the European Council Charles Michel, cowardly, on September 25: “From 14,000 to 15,000 euros, something like that. » “Or, in net salary? », the journalist of the RTL-TVI channel asks somewhat surprised. “It’s net salary…”responds Mr. Michel.

This is enough to provoke immediate consternation and anger, both in the political world – where there is no desire to relaunch a debate on the pay of officers – and in public opinion, where stronger action by the public powers in the face of the vertiginous increase in the cost of living and energy bills. Mathieu Michel was, in fact, duped for around €4,000 (a Belgian Secretary of State receives around €10,000) and suddenly gave the impression of being out of touch with reality. But, above all, it lit the fuse for a very lively debate.

“political sobriety”

The political world first tried to qualify his statements, indicating that the Secretary of State had, in fact, added his salary and all the benefits linked to his role. It was insufficient to calm things down while Mr. Michel reversed the situation by stating that he wanted to play, in these difficult times, “transparency”. “In the period we are going through, it is legitimate to ask a certain number of questions”he said, while reviewing his calculations: he would not earn 15,000, but 11,000 euros a month.

The prime minister himself will join the discussion: Alexander De Croo leaves a note on the table of the federal government on Thursday, October 6. He evokes, in the midst of budget work aimed at bringing to light some 4,000 million euros of savings, a necessary “political sobriety”. And it suggests an 8% drop in ministers’ salaries. Given the magnitude of the deficits, the return of this measure would be above all symbolic (456,000 euros per year), but the head of government feels that it is necessary to act – or divert attention? –, After the risky statements of his Secretary of State. “The Belgians do not care about the salaries of footballers, they ignore those of bankers and big bosses, but they do not tolerate those of political leaders, always considered abusive”regrets a member of the majority, who wishes to remain anonymous.

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