Jan Jambon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security and of the Interior, was the guest of honor at our 2017 Annual Dinner held on June 29 at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. Over 140 guests from the US-Belgian business community gathered to hear Minister Jambon speak on Belgium’s international reputation and the challenges and opportunities ahead.
As Minister Security and of the Interior, Mr. Jambon has had a challenging year and a half. Not only was Belgium attacked by terrorists on March 22, 2016, which will “always be a black day” for Belgium according to Minister Jambon, but the country also suffered reputational damage when it was labelled a “failed state” in some media in the aftermath of the Paris attacks in November 2015. However, Belgium has been able to slowly shake off this negative reputation, thanks to several initiatives to boost the country’s image. The Minister especially thanked the Chamber for the #Yes2Belgium campaign, which it organized in cooperation with several other foreign Chambers of Commerce last year in support of Belgium.
“I have to thank the American Chamber of Commerce for the initiative you undertook a year ago. It helped a lot. A lot.”
— AmCham Belgium (@AmChamBE) June 30, 2017
Minister Jambon also said he was particularly proud of “the resilience of the [Belgian] population” and outlined some of the initiatives the Government has been undertaking to make the country a safer and more secure place to live. He emphasized “we should not hide in fear, and we should never let terrorists dictate our way of life,” but he remarked that that is not in the Belgian character to let that happen.
With parliamentary elections coming up in 2019, the Minister hopes to spend the next two years finalizing several reform packages, focusing not only on security but also on structural socio-economic reforms. Since this Government was formed in October 2014, the mantra has been to create jobs, jobs and more jobs. According to the Minister, Belgium’s small and open economy is gaining from the overall economic improvement: employment figures are at an all-time high, unemployment is at its lowest in fifteen years, and the confidence of entrepreneurs and consumers is growing.
However, getting Belgium’s budget back on track is one of the government’s toughest challenges ahead. As Mr. Jambon said, “If this government wants to implement some structural socio-economic reforms, it will be now or never.” There are two key priorities: reforming the social security system and reforming corporate taxation.
Mr. Jambon countered recent media reports that the corporate tax reform will only focus on SMEs in a first instance, and said he hoped for “a balanced reform of the corporate tax with a balance between small and larger enterprises.” A reform should be beneficial to companies of all sizes and provide legal certainty for foreign investors. He emphasized that “our economic engine is firing up and the last thing we need to do now is to hit the brakes.” Instead, Mr. Jambon concluded that this government should persevere with its business-friendly policies.
Thank you to Brussels Airlines for donating two round-trip economy class tickets from Brussels to the US, and congratulations to the winner, Bart ‘T Jampens, of Unacis!