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Belgium’s retired king says $1.2m isn’t enough

BRUSSELS — In these times of financial crisis, the question gripping Belgium is whether $1.2 million a year is enough to make a retired king happy.

Belgium’s King Albert II stepped down last summer, and saw his annual public funding slashed from $15.4 million.

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Newspapers said on Thursday the 79-year-old former monarch sent out feelers for more taxpayer money to meet his bills, and the government was quick to refuse.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, a red-blooded socialist of poor immigrant background, told Parliament that ‘‘the government does not intend to change a comma’’ in the royal stipend plan, eliciting warm applause from government parties and opposition alike.

Belgium’s royal family has been involved in several financial scandals over the past few years, and its standing when it comes to money matters has been undermined.

The Le Soir paper based its story on Albert’s reported desires on unnamed sources and the royal palace did not return calls seeking comment or confirmation.

Though royal matters were once treated with solemnity in parliament, Thursday’s session had a sense of Barnum about it, as one legislator after another salted their speeches with barbs to argue against any increase.

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