“Despite the attacks, the confidence of international businesses active in Belgium is holding steady, or even strengthening. However, the lack of competitiveness of the country compared to its neighbors weighs on investments,” summarized the Belga News Agency. The release of our 2016 Business Barometer last week received substantial media coverage, helping to diffuse the survey’s conclusions to a broad audience.
The Business Barometer focuses on key questions that matter most to business: investments, jobs and sales. 51% of the companies surveyed plan to invest in Belgium in the coming three years. “This is a high percentage, which marks a positive development” compared to our 2014 survey, observed Le Soir. Marcel Claes, Chief Executive of AmCham Belgium, however, tempered the results: “We notice that many companies plan to make incremental investments in existing sites. The number of new investments is small” (De Tijd).
Although international companies plan to invest in Belgium, “[they] expect more from the government,” noted L’Echo. Of the companies planning to invest, 60% expect to create jobs – but only a modest number. In an interview on RTBF La Première, Olivier Chastel, President of MR, referred to the Business Barometer and recognized: “The biggest impediment to investment is the high cost of labor”. Howard Liebman, President of AmCham Belgium, explained, “Even with the recent tax shift, labor costs in Belgium remain 10% higher than in neighboring countries” (La Libre Belgique).
“We feel the government has made great strides, but obviously we can see that it’s not enough,” Mr. Liebman told VRT één. In addition to labor costs, fiscal and regulatory predictability is another key concern of international businesses in Belgium. “One of the things our members – and companies, in general – want is stability.”
“We [have to] take concrete steps to ensure Belgium is a competitive and interesting and incentivizing economy for people to come in and stay in,” commented Mr. Liebman on Kanaal Z. With business confidence growing, AmCham Belgium looks forward to working in partnership with policymakers to generate prosperity and create employment in Belgium.
For a full list of the media coverage, click here.