Belgian PM Mocked Over ‘Magic’ With Numbers After Budget Deal

  • Michel heralds budgetary ‘effort’ of nearly 900 million euros
  • Di Rupo says budget hole seems to have disappeared ‘by magic’

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the government has found nearly 900 million euros ($966 million) to keep this year’s budget on track, but was mocked by his predecessor for “doing magic or manipulating the figures.”

The government reached an agreement late Saturday on the budget, according to a Twitter posting by Michel. The deal involves a budgetary “effort” of 872 million euros without the need for extra levies or cuts, thanks in part to better-than-expected corporate tax income, he told reporters in Brussels Sunday, according to L’Echo newspaper. The total includes the maintenance of a safety margin of more than 550 million euros for the rest of the year.

Charles Michel

Photographer: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

“We can benefit more and more from the results of structural reforms, also on the budgetary level,” L’Echo quoted Michel, a francophone liberal, as saying on Sunday at the press briefing.

Delivering on a pledge of bringing down Europe’s highest labor taxes, Michel’s government is struggling to finance the reduction amid higher security expenditure following the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels. Additional uncertainty comes from the potential impact of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, with the Belgian economy being more exposed to U.K. demand than most of its EU peers.

‘Billion-Euro Hole’

Socialist lawmaker Elio di Rupo, the former prime minister, was quick to denounce the budget deal, which he said came just over a week after a report by a budget monitoring committee highlighted problems with the nation’s finance plans.

“Either, since the monitoring committee’s report dated only nine days ago, everything has changed and the forecasts are enormously more favorable, to the point that this 1 billion-euro hole has disappeared, as if by magic. Or the government found small arrangements with the numbers.”

— With assistance by John Martens

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