Ten years after the financial crisis, European countries are starting to benefit from an economic revival. Now is the time for Belgium to focus on investments and innovation, to drive economic growth and to set course for a prosperous future.
A decade of austerity measures is coming to an end, and European countries are ready for a new chapter. Cost-cutting measures must make room for investments. The budgetary negotiations for 2018 are the perfect opportunity for Belgian governments to gear up for the future.
According to the economic budget prepared by the Federal Planning Bureau in September, Belgium can expect economic growth of 1.7% in both 2017 and 2018. This only slightly trails the eurozone growth rate, forecasted at 2.1% in 2017 and 1.8% in 2018. The Belgian labor market is also recovering, with an all-time high number of vacancies – there were over 250,000 job openings over the last 12 months in Flanders alone.
To reinforce the local and global economy, governments need to focus on the future. Private investment, stimulated by concerted fiscal measures, is key. This follows from the 2017 Trade and Development Report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Belgian governments, which are completing their budgetary forecasts for 2018, should act upon these recommendations and focus on investments and structural reforms.
The start of this new investment strategy should primarily aim at improving infrastructure and digitalization. First, a long-term vision for a better infrastructure is needed to revitalize Belgium’s competitiveness and capitalize on its strategic geographic position. Without major investments in the infrastructure network, further economic growth and job creation will face unnecessary obstacles. Second, this is the time to target investments to improve Belgium’s potential for digitalization, both in government and the country overall. Technology is a key sector for future economic growth and employment.
While we are well on the road to recovery, new problems might be lurking around the corner. By investing in the future, Belgium can secure its position on the global market and continue to attract international business.
AmCham Belgium is ready to work in partnership with the governments, as the country prepares for the future. We will present our full recommendations to the Belgian government(s) in our 2017 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium, scheduled for release on September 28.
Photo credit: Reuben Yau / Flickr