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Belgium in the Ranks: Country Governance

Belgium is known for its highly skilled and multilingual workforce, geographical location and innovation clusters. But where does the country stand in comparison to other economies? In the second part of a new series, we take a look at Belgium’s governance through the lens of the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 (WEF).

Government measures impact all sectors and business activities. Public policies are decisive, from a company’s initial investment to hiring and filing taxes. Today, the Michel Government presents itself as a business-friendly government, and the majority of the international business community believes it is on track: economic reforms send a positive signal to investors. To improve government efficiency, particularly in regard to business, AmCham Belgium recommends some guiding principles that would help the country climb the ranks of competitiveness.

“Industrial competition plays out globally. Belgium needs to ensure that companies have a level playing field on which to compete.” – Joost Van Roost, President, ExxonMobil Benelux and Board member of AmCham Belgium

For the business community in Belgium, simplifying administrative procedures is a first crucial measure in the hands of the Government, for which Belgium ranks 119 out of 140 in the WEF. Red tape slows down business activities, such as investment and staffing decisions. Moreover, the sixth State Reform has further complicated administrative procedures, and our member companies have expressed growing concern about the consequences of the decentralization of the Belgian State. AmCham Belgium therefore recommends facilitating effective coordination between the regions and between federal and regional governments in order to avoid incoherence.

While reducing the administrative burden is a first step, AmCham Belgium also invites the Michel Government to continue promoting business-friendly legislation. The fundamental importance of attracting foreign investment and enabling new advanced technologies for a small and open economy like Belgium cannot be overstated. This recommendation also extends to domains where Belgium currently ranks fairly well, such as transport infrastructure and innovation. Belgium’s long-term competitiveness depends not only on addressing urgent priorities but also consolidating its existing strengths.

“With its central location in Europe and international orientation, Belgium has proved to be a hot spot for innovation by companies like ours. For innovation to continue to flourish, fiscal incentives remain key, but the same goes for regulatory certainty through simplified administrative procedures.” – Jeroen Langerock, Director of Public Affairs & Communications Belux, Coca-Cola Services and Chairman of the Government Relations Forum, AmCham Belgium

International investors attach great importance to a stable and predictable regulatory environment. Consistency is key. Policymakers should take a long-term perspective and could be aided, in this regard, by the use of impact assessments. In addition to legislative stability, another important element of country governance is social stability. Belgium’s often adversarial social relations could perhaps be mitigated by a more future-oriented social dialogue.

By establishing simple, stable and business-friendly regulatory frameworks, businesses will be more confident in the country and Belgium will become a more attractive place to invest and do business. AmCham Belgium looks forward to working in partnership with business-friendly governments at all levels of governance.