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Elections 2019: Comparing the Parties' Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium

by David Gaier, Public Affairs Coordinator, AmCham Belgium

With only five days to go until the federal and regional elections in Belgium, we present a comparison* of the main proposals from 11 political parties, focusing on the issues of most concern to the international business community, as laid out in our 2019 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium (#PPB19): Labor Market, Country Governance, Infrastructure, Corporate Taxation and Healthcare. What are their ideas to make Belgium more competitive now and in the long term?

 

Party Election manifestos

 

Labor Market

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Introduce a ceiling for employer social security contributions.

  • Improve the flexibility of work organization  and remuneration.

  • Simplify talent acquisition.

  • Adjust automatic wage indexation.

cdh

CD&V

Ecolo

Groen

MR

N-VA

Open VLD

PS

SP.a

  • First €10,000 of income tax free.

  • Reduce employers’ social security contributions on lower and middle wages.

  • Reinforce the dialogue between companies and vocational schools.

  • Promote STEM education.

  • Social Pact to develop dual-learning; create an online dual-learning platform for recruiters and candidates; dual-learning to be possible in higher education.

  • R&D investments to be fully deductible.

  • Extend the withholding tax exemption for researchers to academic personnel with research activities; improve the mobility of researchers between universities and companies.

  • Create an individual right to training and to homeworking, with possibility to work four days per week.

  • Adapt working hours for a better work-life balance.

  • Lower taxes for low wages.

  • Encourage flexibility and stimulate labor mobility.

  • Platform economy: regulate, but allow some flexibility.

  • Insist on reskilling and lifelong learning for all.

  • Expand dual-learning; reinforce the STEM Action Plan and increase the funding of STEM education.

  • Promote  good cooperation between scientific research and companies.

  • Maintain automatic wage indexation.

  • Support cross-border cooperation and free-movement within the EU. 

  • Allow companies to implement a 32-hour working week in four days with mandatory recruitment of personnel (with lower employers’ social security contributions).

  • Lower social security contributions on low wages and tax deduction for workers on low wages; minimum wage at €2,300 a month.

  • Allow people over 55 to work less without losing money.

  • Create a right to lifelong training (five days a year guaranteed).

  • Further develop the platform economy.

  • Review and amend the 1996 law on competitivity.

  • Lower labor costs, with focus on low wages.

  • Support the platform economy if it is social, ecological and democratic.

  • Employees to get five days of training and reskilling per year.

  • Abolish fiscal incentives for employers working with researchers and focus on financing R&D.

  • First €13,500 of income tax free.

  • Lower employees’ social security contributions on wages under €2,100 before taxes.

  • Expand flexi-jobs to more sectors.

  • Develop coworking spaces near major roads.

  • Promote homeworking; give employers and employees more flexibility to organize their working week how they want.

  • Allow people to choose the training they want.

  • Simplify legislation on work at night and on Sundays for e-commerce.

  • Promote dual-learning, with tax incentives for companies.

  • Increase unemployment benefits at the beginning, but reduce the benefits after 12 months.

  • Promote dual- learning in higher education. Implement advanced partnerships between companies and young people.

  • Encourage circular immigration.

  • No employers’ social security contributions on first employee, reduction for the second to sixth employees.

  • More flexibility and adaptation to market, with possibility to work at night and on the weekends.

  • Level-playing field for the platform economy.

  • Expand dual-learning and cut administrative burdens.

  • Invest in STEM-education.

  • Stimulate cooperation between universities and companies.

  • Encourage the migration of skilled people

  • Expand flexi-jobs.

  • Increase dual-learning opportunities to match offer and demand between schools and companies; expand dual-learning to universities.

  • Review or cancel the reduction/elimination of certain social security contributions.

  • Maintain automatic wage indexation.

  • Minimum wage at €14 per hour (€2,300 gross per month).

  • 32h working week, with same salary and mandatory recruitment of personnel.

  • Training bonus and incentives for those who follow some training or for companies investing in training.

  • Work at night and on Sunday remains the exception, not the rule.

  • Platform economy: better protection for workers.

  • Harmonize and rationalize dual-learning opportunities; people to get certification after a successful training.

  • Each worker to have an individual right to 10 days of training a year, including five days in a row.

  • Encourage homeworking and the creation of coworking places.

  • Faster administrative procedures for research.

  • More lifelong learning opportunities (create certification schemes and “micro-diplomas”).

  • Find common criteria for economic migration at EU level.

  • Lower labor costs for low wages. 
  • Limit flexibility; more negotiating powers to the trade unions. Timekeeping to be mandatory in all sectors.

  • Platform economy: no race to the bottom, in line with EU regulations.

  • Workers entitled to five days of training per year.

  • Invest in STEM education.

  • First €13,670 euros of income tax free.
  • Wage indexation up until a certain amount.

  • No employers’ or employees’ social security contributions on overtime.

  • Have an individual right to training.

  • Modernize the jobs market (more coworking and homeworking).

  • If possible, give people full flexibility (flexible schedules and places to work).

  • Companies to give more benefits to employees who need to be flexible.

  • Allow the implementation of a four-day working week with the same salary and mandatory recruitment of personnel (with lower employers’ social security contributions).

  • Foster circular immigration (foreign university graduates back to their countries for five years before being granted a long-term stay permit in Belgium).Encourage economic migration based on economic needs.

  • Wage indexation up until a certain amount.
  • Facilitate the mutual recognition of skills and diploma.

  • First €15,000 of income tax free; 45% maximum tax rate.
  • Promote dual-learning by eliminating employers’ social security contributions on recruitment through that system.
  • Encourage flexibility and homeworking.
  • Reform unemployment benefits to activate more people.

Country Governance

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Manage government spending more efficiently.

  • Cut administrative burdens.

cdh

CD&V

Ecolo

Groen

MR

N-VA

Open VLD

PS

SP.a
  • Single point of contact for companies.

  • Make EU budgetary rules more flexible to allow for more investments.

  • Define common objectives and let every level of power work on its own to reach them.

  • Simplify the Brussels’ institutions.

  • Reduce the size of ministerial Cabinets.

  • Digitalize the administration.

  • Efficient government with a clear division of competencies.

  • Simplify regulations and the administration.

  • 3% of GDP to go to public investment.

  • Set up a State reform commission and enhance cooperation between the governments.

  • Activate the unemployed.

  • One-stop-shop for companies when dealing with the administration.

  • Take regional dynamics into account for sector-specific complexities.

  • Eliminate provinces.

  • Invest in sectors vital to the economy, at all levels of power.

  • 4% of GDP to go to public investment by 2030.

  • Improve cooperation between all levels of power and invest in digitalization to reduce administrative burdens.

  • Reduce the number of public structures in Wallonia.

  • Eliminate the provinces.

  • Reduce public spending and balance the budget.

  • Implement a spending review for each level of power.

  • Modernize public administration and adapt it to company needs.

  • Business friendly administration, with a single point of contact (one-stop-shop).

  • 3% of GDP invested in R&D.

  • Reduce the government’s complexity with confederalism.

  • 3% of GDP invested in R&D and €1 billion extra for Flanders to invest.

  • Activate the unemployed.

  • One integrated service for permits: simplify, accelerate and automatize the procedures, with a “one-stop-shop.”

  • Stimulate entrepreneurship with fiscal incentives and less bureaucracy.

  • Small and more efficient government.

  • Benchmarking with the Netherlands.

  • Simplify and digitalize the administration, with a one-stop-shop.

  • 4% of GDP to go to public investment in innovation and research by 2035 (5% by 2050).

  • One-stop-shop for companies when dealing with the administration.

  • Effective and efficient governments, close to citizens.

  • Invest more in R&D.

  • One-stop-shop for businesses.

  • Moratorium on State reforms until 2030.

  • Organize a convention to evaluate Belgian federalism and define long-term goals.

  • Develop a federalism of cooperation.

  • Reduce the size of ministerial cabinets and the number of Walloon and Brussels’ MPs.

  • Digitalize the public sector.

  • 2% of GDP invested in R&D.

  • Single point of contact for companies.

  • Re-federalize foreign trade, road safety, professional sports and health.

  • Maximum five ministers at the regional level and nine at the federal level; reduce the number of regional MPs.

  • Cut public spending by 1% every year to get in line with the Netherlands and Germany.

Mobility and Infrastructure

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Invest in mobility.

  • Invest in digital infrastructure.

cdh

CD&V

Ecolo

Groen

MR

N-VA

Open VLD

PS

SP.a

  • Implement an interfederal mobility Pact and invest in alternatives to cars, including waterways and freight trains.

  • Create a “positive toll” around Brussels (good habits rewarded).

  • Invest more in mobility (tram, bus, rail and roads).

  • Smart road pricing.

  • Mobility budget for each worker.

  • Invest in digital at school (educational program and infrastructure); more budget for ICT at schools.

  • Invest €7 billion in public transport over five years.

  • Free public transport for people under 25 years old and for the unemployed.

  • Mobility budget for each worker.

  • Invest in public transport and expand it in the weekend, in the evening and at night.

  • Smart road charging.

  • Mobility budget for each worker.

  • Government to invest in a digital future. 

  • Invest more in public transport and increase the frequency.

  • Cheaper public transport outside of rush hours.

  • Use data to help people make mobility decisions.

  • Finalize the RER and extend the subway in Brussels.

  • Develop 5G.

  • Support public and private investments in the digital sector

  • Invest in infrastructure, with multimodality and better connections.

  • Manage traffic with data and smart road charging.

  • Fiscal policy promoting a mobility plan.

  • Digitalize companies and the government.

  • Invest €10 billion in roads, bikes, tram and ports; more public transport with focus on multimodality.

  • Use data to tackle traffic congestion.

  • Make the government more digital.

  • Affordable public transport (free until 25 and over 65 years old).

  • Coordinate all levels of power and different sectors (schools, companies…) to increase efficiency.

  • Make carsharing schemes available in more areas.

  • More digital training.

  • Invest more in public transport; increase quality and frequency.

  • Use technology to fight traffic jams; smart road charging.

  • Interfederal mobility vision, better collaboration between all levels of power.

  • Encourage the delivery of goods early in the morning, in the evening or at night to tackle traffic jams.
  • Better offer and access to public transport.
  • Binding interfederal mobility cooperation agreement.
  • Tax cars based on their use. 
  • Improve multimodality and increase train frequency.
  • Create a tax shelter in the digital and new technology sectors.
  • Guarantee Internet access on the entire territory.

Corporate Taxation 

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Create a best-in-class tax environment and reduce the cost of labor.

  • Provide a simple and stable fiscal framework, using digital technology and standardization.

  • Enhance collaboration with tax authorities, promoting mutual respect.

cdh

CD&V

Ecolo

Groen

MR

N-VA

Open VLD

PS

SP.a

  • Implement tax shift measures but work towards a harmonized corporate tax rate at EU level.

  • Tax digital companies at EU level.

  • Tax rate harmonized at EU level.

  • Harmonize ruling commissions in the EU, with full transparency about rulings.

  • Simplify the tax system.

  • Tax companies according to their social and environmental impact.

  • EU harmonization.

  • No race to the bottom with the tax rate; need for EU harmonization.

  • Simplify corporate taxation by reducing the number of exemptions and exceptions.

  • Reform the tax administration to make it customer-friendly, focused on predictability and certainty.

  • Tax incentives for companies investing in training.

  • Tax incentives for companies investing in the 4.0 economy.

  • Keep on reforming the corporate tax system and decrease the rate towards the EU average.
  • Focus on common taxation system in the EU.
  • Implement BEPS in Belgian law.

  • Harmonize the tax rate at EU level.

  • Make multinationals pay more taxation. 

  • Strict adoption and enforcement of BEPS.

  • Harmonize tax rate at EU level.

  • 3% tax on the turnover of GAFAs over €750 million with at least €50 million of income in the EU.

  • Eliminate the notional interests system.

  • Apply VAT to digital services performed in Belgium.

  • Eliminate tax advantages for company cars.

  • Maintain the current company car system.

  • Improve the relations with the tax administrations.

Healthcare 

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Work towards an ambitious government program to anticipate future healthcare needs.

  • Foster a true innovative healthcare valley.

  • Establish “value based” healthcare.

  • Invest in lifelong health: from prevention and lifestyle to cure and care.

 

cdh

CD&V

Ecolo

Groen

MR

N-VA

Open VLD

PS

SP.a

  • Encourage people to live a healthier life.

  • Digitalize healthcare

  • Evolution from acute cure and care to a broader vision including prevention.

  • Investing in prevention to be a priority.

  • Increase digitalization, with safe use of data and regulatory framework.

  • Adopt a national burnout prevention plan.

  • Develop a legal framework for the use of AI in healthcare

  • Focus on prevention and reform the financing system.

  • Quality check for e-health systems.

  • Specific taxation for companies investing in the well-being of their employees.

  • Use digital tools in healthcare.

  • More collaboration and dialogue between the different levels of power; create an advisory council setting interfederal health objectives.

  • Focus on prevention and increase the budget for it.
  • Improve digitalization.

  • Hospitals to publish more information about the quality of treatments available.

  • Invest more in prevention and promote a healthier lifestyle.

  • Invest in prevention.

  • Digitalize healthcare (develop the e-health platform and electronic files).

  • Create an interfederal framework to define priorities and common objectives.

  • Make prevention a priority.

  • Increase the budget for prevention
  • Improve wellbeing and the prevention of burnouts at work.

  • Have a global healthcare approach.

  • More coordination between all levels of power.

  • Develop e-health and digitalization.

  • Re-federalize health prevention policies.

  • Raise public awareness about risky behaviors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wish all parties good luck in the upcoming elections and we look forward to working together with the next governments at all levels to improve Belgium’s competitiveness and to get more companies to say #Yes2Belgium!

* Please note that the cross-party comparison only contains extracts of the party programs which are relevant to AmCham Belgium. Full party programs can be found on the respective websites of the political parties.

Download AmCham Belgium's 2019 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium

About the author

Tom Declercq

David Gaier, Public Affairs Coordinator, Amcham Belgium

Always willing to network, David designs the Chamber’s outreach strategy, building bridges between AmCham Belgium and political stakeholders. Contact him at: dgaier@amcham.be.

 

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