Dear Mr. Bellot,
The American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium (AmCham Belgium) congratulates you on your recent appointment as Minister of Mobility. Your long history of public service, your experience with public enterprises and your dedication to the public interest will be invaluable assets in your new position. We wish you every success, and we look forward to working in partnership with you to address the country’s important mobility challenges.
Indeed, mobility has been gaining in relative importance for our member companies in recent years.
Belgium’s ideal geographic location and dense transport networks (land, air and water) have helped attract international business, including many distribution centers and other logistics activities. Businesses depend on the safe and efficient movement of people and goods, but Belgium’s mobility infrastructure, once a source of pride, is now reaching the point of saturation and is sadly falling into a state of disrepair.
As a recent study by the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB-VBO) highlights, this is the consequence of years of underinvestment. Infrastructure should contribute to economic development, but instead has become a bottleneck.
The problem is two-fold. On the one hand, infrastructure tends to draw serious attention only when there is a problem, as we see in the case of the Brussels tunnels. In these circumstances, we have no choice but to rely on short-term fixes, when we should have prevented the problems from developing in the first place. On the other hand, when a problem is correctly identified and a long-term solution proposed – such as the regional express network, which is intended to alleviate road congestion in and around Brussels – the projects often suffer from chronic delays and cost overruns.
These problems are compounded by regionalization, which has divided responsibility for mobility between different levels of government. Many delays, for example, are the result of planning and permitting issues. Our member companies have expressed growing concern about the administrative complexity and fragmentation of policymaking resulting from the decentralization of the Belgian State. Congestion doesn’t stop at the border; mobility requires effective coordination between the regions and between federal and regional governments.
Lastly, the transport sector is often struck by social unrest, whether air traffic controllers, truck drivers or river pilots. By grounding air traffic, blocking roads and disrupting ports, their actions have a significant knock-on effect on the wider economy and Belgium’s international image. We need to modernize our system of social dialogue.
In summary, a comprehensive solution to Belgium’s mobility challenges must take consideration of required infrastructure investment, regional coordination and labor relations. Belgium needs a clear, integrated vision – a long-term mobility strategy and investment plan, with a sufficient funding commitment and an accountability mechanism. Transport is still the lifeblood of the economy.
This is your opportunity.