The annual Belgian Power Breakfast at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, took on renewed significance this year, as the government starts an international promotional tour to tout economic reforms and reassure investors after last year’s terrorist alert.
“Belgium, the force awakens”
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo persuasively argued that Belgium is the “right place” and this is the “right moment” to invest. With a sly reference to the new Star Wars film, he outlined exactly how the Federal Government has followed through on Charles Michel’s promise at Davos last year to be “business friendly”.
"We have worked very hard to reform our economy, our tax system and our employment market. These reforms are today a reality." #BE@Davos
— Alexander De Croo (@alexanderdecroo) January 21, 2016
Most notably, the government has made a significant effort to lower the cost of labor by reducing employer social security contributions from 33% to 25%, in line with AmCham Belgium’s longstanding recommendation. At the same time, the government has taken other measures which will strengthen the purchasing power of Belgian citizens.
These reforms, on top of Belgium’s traditional strengths, such as “the quality of our universities, our skilled and multilingual workforce and our infrastructures,” should help generate economic growth and 114,000 new jobs.
As befits his portfolio, Minister De Croo also spoke about entrepreneurship and the digital economy. His ambition is to place Belgium in the top three digital countries in Europe and make it one of the most attractive locations not only for young digital entrepreneurs but also established innovators. “Private initiative,” he said, is “at the heart of our government.”
On the Road
The Belgian Power Breakfast at Davos gives an idea of the road show, announced by Prime Minister Charles Michel earlier this month, to promote Belgium abroad. The Prime Minister has charged Jan Smets, Governor of the National Bank, with coordinating a series of international visits over the course of this year to correct misconceptions stemming from the terrorist alert and to sell Belgium as a reliable trade and investment partner. The Prime Minister will be accompanied on the road show by Belgian business leaders. Although specific locations have not yet been selected, the idea is to target markets with high economic growth and commercial interests such as the United States or Asian countries.
Defining the business community’s priorities
Coinciding with Michel’s initiative, AmCham Belgium is currently organizing a series of lunchtime discussions around Belgium to listen to what our members and prospective members believe is needed to increase their business and investment opportunities in Belgium. This is an opportunity to share your concerns with high-level peers from different sectors and help set AmCham Belgium's policy priorities for the coming years. Consult our events calendar for the dates and locations of all the lunches. These lunches are by invitation only – please contact the Secretariat for more information.
Photo credit: flickr/ Philips Communications