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Legal changes in Belgium reach 'final stages'

BELGIUM- Legislative changes to Belgium’s occupational pension schemes are set to clear the next hurdle if the parliamentary debate is completed on time at the end of the month. The legislation will then proceed to a plenary session at the beginning of February and should make it to the upper house, the Senate, a few weeks later.

“We are in the final stages of this law,” says Henk Becquaert, an advisor to the minister of pensions who says the overhaul of the country’s second pillar pensions should be completed by May at the earliest.

There remain a few problems that need ironing out, not least fiscal issues including tax. Trying to put the various schemes on a similar fiscal footing has taken the government longer than expected.

He says that the new law will try and cater for every element of secondary pensions as the existing Belgian system includes collective, individual and sector wide funds each with their own laws and individual characteristics.

“We are putting all these elements into one law, creating a level playing field for all of these systems and trying to make the existing system more transparent,” says Becquaert who believes increased transparency will fuel competition between the various funds.

Within the occupational pillar there is particular attention to sector wide funds as there has historically employers and employees have had little control or say in the way they are run. “We are trying to introduce more democracy to the second pillar,” he says.

The new law does not apply to the self employed but the government is extending the law to cover them. There are numerous existing schemes covering this slice of the workforce and the government is working to a deadline of January 1 2003 on a law bringing them in line with one another.



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