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“If I don’t pay, I have a problem. If no one pays, it’s the suppliers who have a problem”: Don’t Pay is structured in Belgium

  • Post category:Economy News
  • Reading time:4 mins read

After rallying thousands of people in the UK, the Don’t Pay movement is making progress in Belgium.

Faced with soaring energy prices, this movement encourages citizens not to pay their energy bills to send a strong message to suppliers and the political class.

Started in Flanders, “Wij betalen niet” met with Walloon and Brussels groups on Monday and is therefore structured. Don’t Pay Belgium’s first bilingual campaign will be launched on October 17 in Brussels.

On the set of “Pour Info” on LN24, Peter Terryn, coordinator of the Don’t Pay movement in Belgium, explained that he was surprised by the profile of the people who contacted the Don’t Pay movement: “People who earned a good living, who were owners, people who were not politicized and who had no interest in organizing themselves”.

A language barrier overcome

The movement that started in Flanders has managed to unite linguistic groups little by little under the same banner. As Peter Terryn explains, “this is a widespread problem that requires a collective solution“. It was by working with similar groups in Wallonia and Brussels that the movement realized that they were all defending the same ideas, which led them to unite in the same bilingual campaign.

These ideas, championed by the Don’t Pay movement according to Peter Terryn, argue that one cannot solve the problem of rising gas prices as a consumer: “The problem lies with suppliers and producers“, he declares.

“Don’t Pay is the wrong target”

According to Stéphane Bocqué, communication director of Febeg (Belgian Federation of Electric and Gas Companies) and also a guest on the set of Pour Info, Don’t Pay is attacking the wrong people: “They are on the wrong target, the crisis is entirely due to the rise in gas prices on the international wholesale markets“, he declares, asserting that the response of the Don’t Pay movement is inadequate.

Stéphane Bocqué returns to the energy reality preceding the crisis, arguing that for 180 terawatt-hours in the past, Belgium paid 3 billion 600 million euros for imports on the wholesale energy market. Today, it would pay 36 billion, even if these prices fluctuate and can go down. Namely that Belgium imports one hundred percent of its gas and that it is therefore “to gas-exporting third countries that Belgium is losing 33 billion euros per year“, he advances.

The communication director of FEBEG adds that the suppliers themselves are negative: “in supply activities, all Belgian and European suppliers are in the red”, says Stéphane Bocqué. According to the report by the European Association of European Regulators, providers are indeed in the red and have also “significant liquidity problems”. The reports would also show, according to Stéphane Bocqué, that “in 2021, the 5 Belgian suppliers made a loss of 0.5%“.

It is then necessary, according to him, to distinguish the question of profit from that of excess profit. Stéphane Bocqué explains that You have to distinguish producer and supplier and, on the production side, you have to realize that it is a “very cyclical” and historical market, in which “very long-term and extremely risky industrial investments“, which means that we can really get an idea by observing the figures over a period of several years and not 6 months for “judge the profitability of an industrial asset of this type“, he adds. “Over the decade, gas power plants and some nuclear power plants have experienced very great difficulties with losses in some abysmal years, says Stéphane Bocqué. So you have to look at it from a historical perspective.”