Belgian Workers’ Party intensifies campaign to reduce energy bills

As of December 25, a petition launched by the PTB demanding a reduction in the VAT has been endorsed by over 290,000 people. The VAT on energy bills is one of the highest in Europe

December 26, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
An activist of the Workers' Party of Belgium during a campaign to reduce the VAT on energy. Photo: Image via PTB/PVDA

The Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) has intensified its campaign to reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) on energy in the county to 6%. The current rate of  21% on electricity and gas is one of the highest in Europe. As of December 25, Saturday, the petition demanding a reduction in the VAT that was launched by the PTB has been endorsed by over 290,000 people. Last week, PTB cadre organized street campaigns across the country demanding the same.

On December 22, while addressing the Chamber of Representatives of the Belgian Federal Parliament, Workers’ Party president Raoul Hedebouw accused the Socialist Party (PS) doublespeak, as the same PS which had sought a reduction of the VAT on the lines of the PTB’s proposal a year ago now opposes it being brought to 6%. Raoul Hedebouw also criticized the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo who tried to defend the arguments in support of a higher VAT on energy.

The parties of the incumbent coalition government have been trying to defend the high tax with the argument that a general reduction would benefit the richest, and will negatively impact the reduction of CO2 emissions, state budgets, and hit wages in the country. The PTB’s response was that a majority of working class households in the country spend a large share of their income on energy bills and that the losses due to reduction in VAT on gas and electricity must be offset by a tax on the profits of energy multinationals.

Raoul Hedebouw had earlier stated that “energy is a basic need. Heating up during the winter is not eating caviar or drinking champagne. However, gas and electricity are taxed in the same way as luxury goods, with a VAT of 21%. Prices are exploding, but our governments are doing nothing. Energy becomes unpayable. Lowering VAT to 6% would immediately lower the bill by more than 340 euros. What is the government waiting for?”

Progressive sections in many parts of Europe have intensified campaigns against high energy prices as working class households which are already ravaged by the COVID-19 crisis are now facing the brunt of high energy bills during the harsh winter. Earlier on October 5, the trade unions who organized a national strike in France demanding higher wages and pensions also denounced the hike in energy prices. In September, communist cadre organized mobilizations across Spain protesting the hike in electricity prices.