Financial independence and tasks in the public interest
Question discussed at the 2006 general meeting
The independence of the Bank with regard to the Belgian State is guaranteed at both national and European level.
This independence consists of several aspects, specifically: institutional (no instructions in the execution of its tasks), operating (principal objective of price stability), personal (protection against dismissal and minimum term of directors) and financial independence.
Financial independence means that the Bank is able to obtain the financial resources which enable it to successfully carry out its tasks (ESCB and national tasks).
Insofar as this condition is met, the fulfilment of tasks in the public interest at no extra cost may be envisaged provided that it does not impinge on the independence of the institution.
The Bank performs tasks in the public interest divided into three categories:
- tasks which are the responsibility of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB): these are a central bank’s basic tasks (legal basis: primarily, the important provisions of the Treaty establishing the European Community and the Protocol on the Statute of the ESCB, as well as Articles 5 to 9bis of the Organic Law);
- tasks in the public interest with which it is entrusted under the terms laid down by Belgian law or in accordance therewith (legal basis: Article 10 of the Organic Law), and
- on its initiative, the provision of services which are ancillary to or follow from the tasks referred to in Article 10 (legal basis: Article 13 of the Organic Law).
The Bank’s tasks in its capacity as a central bank are, as everywhere, financed by a part of the seigniorage granted to the central bank by the legislator in order for it to successfully carry out its tasks.
In principle, this also applies to the other tasks in the public interest with which it is entrusted under the terms laid down by Belgian law or in accordance therewith, unless the legislator decides otherwise.
Thus, for example, legislation provides for the payment of a fee for filing annual accounts with the Bank’s Central Balance Sheet Office, but not for the gathering and processing of economic statistics for which the Bank is responsible.
Finally, the supplementary and ancillary services which the Bank carries out in the public interest are mainly services provided for the financial sector. The Bank’s policy in this regard is in effect to ensure that the users of these services pay a fee which covers the costs.