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In Belgium, social anger rumbles over skyrocketing energy bills

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

Thierry Bodson, president of the General Federation of Labor of Belgium (FGTB), one of the country’s two major trade unions, is convinced of this: when winter arrives and consumers have all received their annual regularization bill for their consumption of gas and electricity, the revolt could rumble. “We are at the end of the day, the situation is extremely serious”, estimated the union in a press release issued a few days ago. With other organizations, he launched a cry of alarm, announced a mobilization in mid-September and a strike which should paralyze the country in November. It remains to be seen what is, at present, the real capacity of the unions to lead a population literally stunned by the explosion of energy prices.

The impact of the crisis, however, is part of a continuity that has its roots several years back and has already tested the population. “She has experienced the impact of the Covid shocks and, now, inflation, war and soaring prices; she had the hope of a better tomorrow, and realizes that she saw the situation of yesterday in worse “, analyzes sociologist Benoît Scheuer, who regularly scrutinizes the state of French-speaking opinion. Céline Nieuwenhuys, Secretary General of the Federation of Social Services sees anger emerging which, she says, can lead to “a dynamic of rejection” dangerous for the democratic system.

500% increase

The price of energy has become “the” subject of all conversations in the country and testimonies are multiplying from households taken by the throat, retirees forced to appeal to the public social action centers (CPAS), the last nets before falling into poverty, or traders hesitating between a price increase supposed to compensate for their energy expenditure and the closure of their activity. Experts estimate that an average household will now have to pay between 6,000 and 10,000 euros per year if it intends to continue heating or lighting as before. Invoices that have already reached their recipients have swelled by 200 or 300% in a few months, or even 500% for the biggest consumers.

Read also: Brussels wants a “solidarity contribution” from gas and oil companies to “help solve this crisis”

At this stage, the federal and regional governments have adopted a few measures: reduction of VAT on gas and electricity, extension of a social tariff, reduction of taxes on fuel (but a liter of diesel costs more than 2 euros ), agreement with the banks for the postponement of repayment of housing loans, prohibition of evictions of tenants who no longer manage to pay their rent in Wallonia, etc.

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