Why is Belgian mobility budget no success?
The ‘mobility budget’ whereby Belgian workers entitled to a company car can exchange their vehicle for a smaller and greener one, with a budget for the train, a shared bicycle, or other sustainable means of transport, is proving unsuccessful.
Between April and December 2019, only 242 Belgian employees subscribed to the mobility budget, according to figures from Finance Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld). The system was introduced in April 2019 to encourage people not always to go to work by car and hence reduce traffic jams.
The mobility budget should not be confused with the ‘cash for car’ system. In the latter case, one renounces the company car and receives the equivalent in cash with a fiscally more favorable regime than the regular salary.
More compact car
Incidentally, the system will disappear at the end of 2020. Anyone who opts for the mobility budget will receive a greener (more compact) car in combination with a budget for multimodal transport (e-bike, public transport, etc.).
The mobility budget is too restrictive and too complex. “Employees can only choose from a small number of cars that meet ecological standards,” Veerle Michiels, mobility specialist at SD Worx says. “Green cars are often more expensive, leaving little budget for other forms of transport. In addition, the choice of alternatives can be wider. Parking costs, for example, are not included. However, there is a demand for this: people want to park their car at the railway station.”
Member of Parliament Jef Van den Bergh (CD&V) continues to believe in the system. He was the big driver of the mobility budget, together with Egbert Lachaert (Open Vld), a current mediator in the coalition talks.
Now he has a bill ready to remove some of the obstacles. For example, he proposes to broaden the range of alternatives. Parking fees should be included, just like a pedestrian fee.
The system could be much simpler, as there are already mobility apps such as Olympus that allow users to pay for all forms of mobility (shared bikes, shared cars, car parks, public transport). Such a system provides a clear overview of transport costs.
Back to cash?
In addition, the rules need to be more flexible to pay off part of your loan or rent with the mobility budget. The idea is that those who live close to their work or work at home should also be rewarded because they are less often on the road. Only those who live less than five kilometers from their work are eligible fort he moment. “I want to raise that perimeter to 10 kilometers,” Van den Bergh concludes.
The idea of a small, green car is perfect for commuter traffic. Still, the company car is almost always used as a family car, taking the back seat generation to school, cultural activities, and sports. When the employee has to pay for this larger car himself, he always comes out more expensive.
In addition, you replace one car with two. The purchase of a larger car is considerably more expensive for a family, which buys a car once every eight years than the rate that a leasing company can negotiate with the same manufacturer because they buy thousands of cars every year.