Flemish Minister of Poverty Reduction Benjamin Dalle and his party chairman Sammy Mahdi (CD&V) argue for full indexation of the Groeipakket. With that they would reverse a decision of their own ex-minister Wouter Beke.
CD&V chairman Sammy Mahdi knows that the energy bill is swinging out of control and that we do not want to allow more people to fall into poverty. He argues for full indexation of the Groeipakket, the former child benefit. That’s what he said on Sunday VTM News. Earlier in the day, his party colleague Benjamin Dalle, Flemish Minister for Poverty Reduction, had made the same plea in The Sunday.
“The current system is outdated by reality, so we need to reform it. Extra investment in the Groeipakket is an absolute priority for CD&V’, says Dalle. ‘That will cost money, I realize that. We therefore have to take a good look at when we can do something. We will also have to find money elsewhere, because I don’t want us to loose our budgetary discipline.’
The Growth Package has been a Flemish competence since 2019, when the Jambon government decided to no longer link the child benefit to the index, but to work with a fixed increase of two percent per year. In September last year, the Flemish government carried out a austerity operation and, under the then Minister of Welfare Wouter Beke (also CD&V) cut the Growth Package; the two percent was scaled back to a fixed annual increase of one percent.
The Gezinsbond already reacted disappointed then and spoke of a ‘shrink package’ instead of a Growth package. The opposition parties and poverty organizations also stood on their hind legs at the time.
An annual indexation of the Growth Package by one percent, while inflation is now almost ten percent, is no longer tenable, according to Dalle and Mahdi. They want to re-link the child benefit to the health index, so that it rises in line with inflation. ‘We see the child benefit as a partial compensation for the costs of the upbringing. That’s the starting point. If the costs of education rise due to inflation, then the child benefit must also increase,’ says Dalle in the interview in The Sunday.
All hands on deck against poverty
Restricting the indexation of the rent is not a good idea, according to Mahdi. ‘The wages are indexed, so why not the rent?’ He does, however, plead for a simplification of rental premiums and a reduction of the taxes on labour, a file of fellow party member and federal Minister of Finance Vincent Van Peteghem. He is also in favor of extending the social tariff to the lower middle class, which today falls by the wayside.
Currently, almost one child in eight in Flanders is growing up in poverty. Will that increase significantly? According to Dalle, the situation is twofold. ‘The global poverty rate in Flanders is 8.5 percent, the lowest level in twenty years. But we have to put it into perspective. Inflation makes it all up to you. If we don’t pay attention, we will reach the highest level within two years.’
The Flemish budget discussions will start later this month.