On January 16, 2019, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo addressed AmCham Belgium members at our New Year Reception, hosted by KPMG. More than 140 guests attended, including representatives from the federal and regional governments, parliaments and administrations.
In his keynote speech, Minister De Croo shared his vision for building a strong economy in times of disruption. While the economic and financial crisis was the cause of instability 10 years ago, today the world is facing a wave of politically-induced instability, with Brexit, trade wars and the recent collapse of the Belgian Federal Government as examples. Chaos is bad for people and bad for business. To counter the growing insularity and tribalism driving these trends, the Minister stressed the importance of engaging with people who hold different ideas than our own and the importance of working together to address common challenges. More fundamentally, however, he sees a loss of faith in progress.
This calls for an ambitious and optimistic response, focusing on growth and inclusiveness. For Minister De Croo, the top priority for the next Belgian Government should be the low activity rate: not enough people are active on the labor market in Belgium. Although 240,000 jobs were created under the Michel I Government – most of them in the private sector – Belgium’s activity rate remains much lower than in The Netherlands and Germany. In the Minister’s estimation, a higher activity rate is key to balancing the budget, lowering taxes and restoring faith in progress.
Noting the success of recent reforms, Minister De Croo said: “The private sector has shown that when you reduce the cost of labor, the impact is almost immediate.” A further reduction of labor costs would help spur more job creation, but political structures also need to adapt to the changing nature of our economy. “In today’s world, you don’t win because you’re big, but because you’re fast” – a striking contrast with the slow consensus-building approach in Belgium, he observed.
Take a look at the video to hear Minister De Croo's thoughts:
Thanks to KPMG for hosting our 2019 New Year Reception!