The Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) has intensified its campaign to lower the Value Added Tax (VAT) imposed on gas and electricity in the country. On Thursday, October 7, party president Peter Mertens called on the federal parliament to pass the proposal to lower the VAT on energy charges from 21% to 6%. As of October 9, more than 258,410 people have endorsed an online petition initiated earlier by the PTB with the same demand.
The PTB also slammed the arguments put forth by the parties in the governing coalition for not lowering the tax on energy prices. According to reports, the government representatives tried to defend the high tax on energy by stating 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.
PTB’s petition pointed out that energy is a basic need but gas and electricity are taxed in the same manner as luxury goods. “Prices are rising massively but our governments are doing nothing. Energy is not a luxury product. Heating up during the winter is not eating caviar or drinking champagne,” the petition said.
Earlier, PTB spokesperson Raoul Hedebouw said, “It’s inconceivable that the state is taking advantage of price increases to fill its coffers ..while households face a catastrophic rise in their bills.”
“The VAT on energy is one of the highest in Europe. It’s crazy that electricity and gas aren’t considered essential products,” he added.
Protests are taking place in other parts of Europe too against hikes in energy prices. 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 the last week of September, cadre of the Communist Party of the Workers of Spain (PCTE) and the Collectives of Communist Youth (CJC) organized mobilizations protesting the hike in electricity prices.