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People Rally In Belgium To Protest Soaring Cost Of Fuel, Food

More than 70,000 people rallied in Belgium’s capital Brussels on Monday in a protest against the soaring cost of guel and food, while strikes at transportation services brought the city home to many of the EU institutions to a standstill.

Workers at the Brussels airport and at local transport networks went on a one-day strike, demanding the government take action against surging prices of food and fuel.

Departures at the airport were canceled as security personnel were also on strike. Most arrivals were also canceled.

Inflation in Belgium and all other European countries has spiked in recent months, to 9 percent this month, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent commodity and fuel prices sky-high and has disrupted supply chains globally, which were still reeling from COVID-related disruptions.

Inflation in Belgium in May was just below 10 percent, the country’s National Bank said in an assessment last week, expecting a gradual easing of the inflation to below 2 percent by the autumn of 2023, barring a wage-price spiral. Wage costs are unprecedentedly high, posing a threat to the competitiveness of the Belgian economy, the bank said.

Workers in Belgium have received pay rises indexed to inflation in recent months. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has said workers and employees are better protected against inflation than many other EU workers because of the wage indexation to inflation.

The Belgian National Bank has described the spike in energy prices as “a major impoverishment for the Belgian economy.” Yet again, the inflation-indexed wages have spared many Belgian households from the worst of the energy price surges, the bank said.

Belgium’s pace of economic recovery from COVID is set to slow to 2.4 percent growth in 2022 and 1 percent in 2023, “notably as the consequences of the embargo of the European Union on Russian oil materialize,” Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said in a report earlier this month. Core inflation is forecast at close to 5 percent through 2023 before easing.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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