BELGIUM -  Belgian pension fund returns fell by 6.2 percentage points to 8.76% over 2006, according to a Belgian Association of Pension Funds (BAPI) study. Performance for 2005 was 14.96%.

However, in the last four years, Belgian pension funds have shown an average return of 9.97%, according to the BAPI's study.

The BAPI surveyed 32 Belgian schemes with combined assets of €6.5bn, making up around half of the sector.

Overall, the results call for optimism and the return should contribute to further improvements in the funding level for Belgian defined benefit schemes, the association said.

The total cover ratio for 2006 has not yet been established but amounted to 149% in 2005.

BAPI will carry out a more detailed sector-wide survey of Belgian pension funds in coming months, looking at performance, asset allocation and funding levels. The association will present these results on May 30.

Elsewhere, the Belgian pensions minister Bruno Tobback told the Belgian Parliamentary Commission on Social Affairs that he will delay the implementation of complementary pension arrangements for certain civil servants.

Tobback said that during the current government period, only ongoing negotiations with trade unions will be concluded.

This is in contrast to earlier statements, when the government said a legal framework for the implementation of complementary pension arrangements was imminent.