by David Gaier, Public Affairs Coordinator, Amcham Belgium
On July 18, a new regional government took the oath of office in the Brussels Parliament. Today, we take a closer look at the new team and the Government Agreement for the 2019-2024 term in Brussels: What are the main proposals put forward to make Brussels more attractive for the international business community?
Shortly after the elections, six parties sat together at the negotiating table to build a majority coalition in Brussels: the socialist parties (PS and sp.a – one.brussels), the Greens (Ecolo and Groen), the Flemish liberals (Open VLD) and the French-speaking social-liberal party (DéFI). After two months of intense discussions, they came to an agreement to govern together. Minister-President Rudi Vervoort will lead his third regional government. Apart from Pascal Smet who is back as Secretary of State, his team will be entirely new.
The new Brussels Government plans to focus in particular on housing, employment, healthcare, living environment, mobility and climate. This article compares various themes from the Brussels Regional Agreement with the recommendations we set out in our 2019 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium (#PPB19).
Labor Market – Invest in People
High unemployment, especially among young people, has been a chronic problem for the region. The new government intends to tackle it by guiding its future policies towards lower-skilled people along three pillars: employment, on-the-job training and education.
The Youth Guarantee, an initiative which provides young people with a job, an internship or training, will be extended to all jobseekers. The government will work closely with companies and other regional job agencies to improve collaboration. Dual learning and vocational training are of increasing importance, so their scope will be broadened. However, regular monitoring will also ensure that these programs meet the needs of companies and employees. Various initiatives will also promote language learning.
Many companies in Brussels or around it struggle to find talent. To tackle this issue, the Brussels Government plans to evaluate and then monitor the current legislation on work permits, including the Single Permit. AmCham Belgium welcomes this initiative and stands ready to continue working with the Federal and Regional Governments to address the inefficiencies linked to the implementation of the Single Permit to create more certainty for foreign workers.
Country Governance – Invest in Public Sector Efficiency
Enhancing collaboration with other regions is a clear objective set by the new government. It will also make more efforts to further cut administrative burdens by means of a new plan for administrative simplification for the period 2020-2025. For example, hub.Brussels will be in charge of building trust with large companies.
The government plans to create a single point of contact to help foreign companies looking to invest in Brussels. It will also continue to work towards the digitalization of public administration and promote the development of a single point of contact for companies already operating here.
Mobility – Invest in Infrastructure
The government proposes a series of measures to address this major issue, for instance, by developing more public transport options by 2025: more buses, new or extended tramlines, or metro lines reaching the northern part of the region.
Furthermore, the Agreement acknowledges that collaboration with other regions and the Federal Government is required to eliminate congestion on the roads. More integrated public transport should therefore become the norm in the capital. The government wants more trains to and from Brussels, in particular during rush hours. Brussels would like to implement a smart kilometer tax on cars, a measure which would, however, require the approval of other regions.
As digital infrastructure and artificial intelligence (AI) will become vital for companies, the new government plans to help key Brussels sectors integrate AI. It also promises to consider the development of the 5G network, a move which we can only encourage.
Taxation – Invest in Business
A friendly business environment is essential if Belgium is to become more attractive for foreign investments. The government agreement refers to many of AmCham Belgium’s recommendations in this area.
As a matter of fact, it explicitly mentions reducing administrative burdens on companies; harmonizing and, if possible, lowering corporate taxation at the regional and local levels; enhanced collaboration with other regions and levels of power to have more coherent policies; and promoting a culture of dialogue between private companies and public authorities.
Healthcare – Invest in Health
The new government seems to fully understand the importance of prevention. It is therefore no surprise that one of its priorities is to improve coordination between all healthcare actors, such as social or health associations, including those involved in screenings, vaccinations and other prevention measures.
E-health initiatives will be expanded to ensure that data can be shared, which will lead to a coherent and continued care pathway. To foster more innovation, the government will also develop systems which are interoperable in Belgium and in foreign countries. As for hospital networks, accreditation standards will be developed, for example, regarding the quality of care or financial affordability.
Members of the new Brussels Government:
- Rudi Vervoort (PS): Minister-President of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Urban Development and Urban Renewal, Tourism, the Promotion of the Image of Brussels and Bicultural Issues of Regional Importance.
- Elke Van den Brandt (Groen), Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Mobility, Public Works and Road Safety.
- Alain Maron (Ecolo), Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Climate Change, Environment, Energy and Participatory Democracy.
- Sven Gatz (Open Vld), Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Finance, Budget, Civil Service and the Promotion of Multilingualism and the Image of Brussels.
- Bernard Clerfayt (DéFI), Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Employment and Professional Education, Digitization, Local Authorities and Animal Welfare.
- Nawal Ben Hamou (PS), Secretary of State of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Housing and Equal Opportunities.
- Barbara Trachte (Ecolo), Secretary of State of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Economic Transition and Scientific Research.
- Pascal Smet (sp.a - one.brussels), Secretary of State of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Urbanism and Heritage, European and International Relations, Foreign Trade and Firefighting and Emergency Medical Assistance.
AmCham Belgium looks forward to working with the new Brussels Government to make Brussels more attractive for foreign companies and to create more prosperity for all in the region!
About the author
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.