Does someone like Bracke now make himself unsympathetic?
“Gosh, he sees such a pension extra as a right that was once given to him. For him it is clearly a matter of principle. Of course there is also a financial side to it: he doesn’t want to lose those money. I find both motifs striking, but not dishonorable. Bracke tries to assert his rights. Any citizen who feels aggrieved can do so.
“For me it is comparable to the tax benefits that a footballer enjoys. If you’re in a system like that, I don’t blame anyone for reaping the benefits. On the other hand, I am hard on the system itself. When the stories about those pension extras surfaced, several party leaders said they were going to tackle this.”
The current generation of politicians then put everything on the previous one.
“Indeed, but now that the flame is gone, I don’t see much movement anymore. All promises have suddenly melted and that bothers me enormously as a citizen. Citizens are now apparently mistaken for people with amnesia and I see this reflected in many files. Whenever socio-economic problems arise, people ultimately leave things alone, even though there are initial promises to tackle them. The biggest thorn in my side is not the pension extras, but the exit payments.”
“If you, as an ordinary citizen, lose your job, you fall back on unemployment benefits that are capped at less than 2,000 euros. You are also expected to look for a new job. If MPs are no longer elected, they will continue to receive their gross salary of around 10,000 euros (two months a year that someone was in parliament, YV). Even if a parliamentarian had a cumul with a different mandate, he gets that.”
Does this depend on the pension extras?
“Well, the discussion about that was quickly broadened to include exit payments. I still hear Melissa Depraetere from Vooruit say that such a regime is abnormal and would be adjusted. It is not the case that all parties have committed themselves to it. But in the meantime nothing happens anymore. The current political generation is also not concerned about this. There is no serious reform of the mandate and I find that lame.”
Do you see another opportunity when political discussion can flare up again?
“In the House, MPs must approve their own budget every year. When they see those amounts, surely they are confronted with the facts? Green politician Kristof Calvo has also submitted a proposal for reform to the House of Representatives office. That still needs to be discussed in plenary. I think those could be good opportunities.
“Then of course there are next year’s elections, which are probably over the wallet shall go. The anger that people feel towards politics can partly be explained by these types of systems. Politicians really need to think about this. You can already see that the PVDA is constantly talking about it. So if politicians don’t do it, it will still have this on its plate.”
Are there also arguments in favor?
“There is talk about a delousing period – before politicians start working privately – and about the fact that a mandate in politics is always limited in time. But the latter applies just as well to an employee who starts working on a temporary contract. I don’t go along with the discourse that they all earn too much. In my opinion, wages could even go up. But such extras that other people don’t get are a problem for me.”