Tuesday 14th May 2013

Jobs decline… 4,673 jobs were lost in the 1st quarter
Reports reveal that 40 businesses announced plans to axe 4,673 jobs across Belgium. This being an increase on the same quarter year on year. Whilst the country is undergoing major job and business reform, the 4673 job losses come largely from the Wallonia and Brussels region.

Gang busted in Belgium
A Serbian crime ring, including a man wanted at home on suspicion for involvement in a murder have been detained in Belgium. The charges will be for robbery and burglary. The seven-strong gang, committed 150 robberies and burglaries in Belgium in the past three months, and was broken up when one of its members was arrested during a routine police roadside check. “In his car, officers found stolen goods, and the arrest of the thirty-five-year-old led to uncovering the other members,” explained federal police commissioner Luc Valkenborg. “These are tough guys; they are a very organised gang,” Valkenborg said. The gang specialised in raiding jewellery shops and breaking into houses and has also committed robberies in the Netherlands and Germany.

Belgium’s black economy – still looks golden…
The black economy in Belgium is worth €63 billion this year, equivalent to 16.4% of the country’s total economic activity. Even though the figure is the lowest in 10 years, it doesn’t stop Belgium from being bottom of the class in Western Europe. According to professor Friedrich Schneider of Linz’s Johannes Kepler University, an expert in the underground economy, the black economy in Belgium, which in 2008 accounted for 17.5% of GDP, increased to 17.8% in 2009 before falling to 16.8% last year. This year it would represent 16.4% of GDP, he said. In Germany, the black economy is estimated at 13% of GDP, compared to 9.9% in France, 9.7% in the UK and 9.1% in the Netherlands. Eastern European countries have the worst results, with the figure in Bulgaria an estimated 30% of GDP. Experts recommend limiting cash transactions to tackle the black economy. Belgium’s secretary of state in charge of the fight against fraud, John Crombez, was satisfied by the latest figures, even if it remains difficult to quantify the black economy. “The figures show that we are on the right track. But we can and must do even more.”

Brussels Airport: The Swissport operator on strike
Passengers of Brussels Airlines, Thai Airways and others were deprived of their luggage for hours as airport staff went on strike. The advice “travel light” until the chaos and dispute is resolved. “We’re ready to negotiate, but we’re here alone with the social mediator and we’re waiting,” Kurt Callaerts (CSC Transcom) explained. Thousands of passengers have been leaving the airport without retrieving their luggage. They have to fill out a claim form and won’t see their precious belongings for five days.

Muslim official dismissed after handshake incident
Michael TorfsA, a Belgian who converted to Islam and who was employed for the City of Brussels, has been dismissed after refusing to shake hands with the Brussels Francophone socialist, Karine Lalieux, according to a number of press reports. Newspapers are talking about a case of extremism. The man refused to shake hands with her “because his religion forbids him to have physical contact with women.” The man also said he would not change his behaviour in future. “Because the city administration has to be neutral and as city employees should display politeness, we decided that it was no longer possible to have this man work for the City of Brussels”, Ms Lalieux explained. The city council decided to make the man redundant on 29 April. The Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight Against Racism said that the city council took the right decision to fire the man.

New 5 Euro note… of no value in some places right now…
The new 5 Euro banknote seems to not be acceptable to some stores in Belgium! The new note is reportedly showing as a ‘fake’ through the commonly used ‘note forgery detectors’. And, if you’re thinking it stops there, parking machines in parking garages and alike are also reportedly not recognising the legal tender… as legal! The National Bank is blaming software is out of date on the machines, as banks have no problem. It seemingly points towards apathy as the announcement on the new note was made at the end of 2011 so that the necessary adaptations in time could be made. The new 5 Euro bill entered circulation on the 2nd May.

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