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'Enough is enough': 1,000 join Brussels protest against rising cost of living
Almost 1,000 people turned up for a demonstration in Brussels against the rising cost of living, organised by the citizen collection "Trop is te veel" or "Enough is enough".
Faced with inflation and the soaring price of energy, residents of Belgium took to the streets over the weekend demanding rapid structural measures to alleviate the financial squeeze being felt on households.
The crowd was a diverse one, with students, retirees, workers, artists and self-employed people joining the mobilisation.
"Trop is te veel" was founded recently by citizens from multiple unions and sectors saying they are determined to turn anger into action, RTBF reports.
“The measures currently proposed are insufficient – they are bonuses or subsidies, but it is always the same money that is used: the money of the taxpayers, of the workers who came today,” said Emila Hoxhaj, spokeswoman for the collective and president of the FEF (Fédération des Étudiants Francophones).
“This penalises sectors such as education or the healthcare sector. And so it's still the same people who are suffering the sacrifices while others are getting richer. And so enough is enough. We now need to organise this anger upwards, towards the energy giants who are profiting from the crisis.”
Nick Gortz, CSC union’s permanent representative, said the priorities were reducing energy prices, increasing salaries and ensuring fair taxation.
“The problems faced by workers and students and pensioners and the self-employed, overall, are coming together for the moment,” Gortz said, praising the unity of those involved in the collective.
“And having other people, from other backgrounds, who do not live side by side and who say they have the same problems, creates a certain enthusiasm and above all generates hope.”
Hajar, a law student, came out to participate in the demonstration.
“You have students queuing up in social grocery shops to be able to eat and we find that unacceptable,” said Hajar.
“You also have students who are looking for housing and can't find one, and when they do find one it's overpriced. The charges go with it, the rent increases because it is indexed. We are asking that this indexation be blocked and that we return to prices that are affordable for students who are already in a precarious situation.”
Actor Antoine Giet also identified with the collective’s objectives, adding that the climate crisis was another driving force behind the anxiety of citizens, who like to see caps on prices and taxes on excess profits.
“This crisis is being felt very strongly, not only in the private sector, but also in the workplace,” Giet said.
“Some people [in the cultural sector] rehearse in rooms that are not heated, because heating a theatre is extremely expensive and subsidies have not increased.”
Few people are untouched by the crisis, especially as the winter holidays approach.
Le Soir’s Grand Barometer indicated that people in Wallonia and Brussels are tightening their belts when it comes to presents for friends and family this year, with 49% of those surveyed indicating they will be spending less this year than they did in the previous one.
Holidays aside, the responses seem indicative of the overall decline in purchasing power that Belgium, along with other EU countries, is experiencing. Money is going less far in the face of inflation.
Four out of 10 Belgians say they are struggling to make ends meet at the end of each month, according to a report by the Mental Assessment Group cited by Het Nieuwsblad, Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Belang van Limburg.
This 43.4% of Belgians represents an increase over the 36% who said they were struggling last year.
One in three Belgians reports that they are already dipping into their savings, with credit purchases on the rise.
“Many Belgians have little or nothing left at the end of the month, and those who did not have a safety margin are now in great difficulty,” said economics professor Bart Chiau, who co-supervised the study.
“The indexation of salaries does not cover the rise in prices in any way, but is at the same time such a heavy cost factor for companies that they will probably have to let go of some of their staff.”