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How the new Walloon Government plans to make Wallonia more competitive

by David Gaier, Public Affairs Officer, AmCham Belgium

A new Walloon Government was formed on September 13. After our analysis of the Brussels Government Agreement in a previous blog post, today we focus on Wallonia: what are the key proposals put forward to make the region more competitive and attractive for international companies?

After long negotiations, the Liberals (Mouvement Réformateur – MR), the Greens (Ecolo) and the Socialists (Parti Socialiste – PS) agreed to govern Wallonia together for the next five years. On September 9, the coalition presented its Government Agreement, with a strong focus on social, environmental and economic issues. Minister-President Elio Di Rupo took the oath of office on September 13 and will lead his third Walloon Government.

This article will analyze the Walloon Government Agreement in the context of AmCham Belgium’s recommendations set out in our 2019 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium (#PPB19).

LABOR MARKET – INVEST IN PEOPLE

Increasing the employment rate from 63.7% to 68.7% by 2025 is a top priority for the new coalition. This objective can only be achieved with additional training for all, which is why the coalition plans to reform dual-learning for young people. First of all, the main issues and areas for improvement will be identified. Then, a series of measures will be implemented, including more partnerships between schools and companies or other organizations, or campaigns to promote STEM and digital jobs.

However, lifelong training is also crucial to reach such an ambitious target. After an assessment of what currently exists, a certification scheme and “training cheques” will be created. The aim is to help jobseekers or employees acquire new skills. An important development is that the scope of the youth guarantee will be broadened: young people will now be offered an internship, specific training or a job in the first four months after graduation.

The existing programs to help companies develop new ways of working (e.g. coworking spaces) will be evaluated and, if needed, improved. As digitalization is crucial for tomorrow’s labor market, each jobseeker will have a single digital file, and a legal framework will be developed for the platform economy.

Regarding the EU Single Permit Directive, the Walloon Government plans to improve coordination with the regional job agency and the federal authorities in order to make the process more efficient.

COUNTRY GOVERNANCE – INVEST IN PUBLIC SECTOR EFFICIENCY

Belgium’s complex governance system can sometimes deter foreign investment in Belgium, which is why it is essential for the regional authorities to act. Wallonia plans to cut administrative burdens and ease administrative procedures for citizens and companies. Digitalizing the administration and improving its organization to ensure that it focuses on the objectives set by the government are mentioned as potential solutions. The regional executive branch will also look at reforming the provinces to make them more efficient.

In addition to this, the new Government Agreement calls for more coordination with other regions and federal authorities – for instance, regarding investments, employee training or healthcare.

MOBILITY & DIGITAL – INVEST IN INFRASTRUCTURE

Di Rupo’s team plans to further develop alternatives to the use of cars, by investing in mobility and public transport. A top priority is to increase the offer and frequency of public transport, in both cities and rural areas, with more coordination between all transport companies. Moreover, public transport will be free for vulnerable populations, people under 25 and those over 65 years old. The scope of the kilometer tax on trucks might also be broadened.

Furthermore, a 5G network should be developed after reviewing the potential environmental, health and economic impacts. Digital skills training for all and from an early age will also be a priority.

TAXATION – INVEST IN BUSINESS

The government wants to make Wallonia more attractive for foreign companies. To that end, international companies will be provided with more legal certainty and benefit from optimized investment incentives. Fast-track procedures will enable the swift implementation of large-scale projects, and the introduction of paperless permits should help as well. These procedures will also benefit companies which want to export their goods or services.

What’s more, to reduce administrative burdens, Wallonia will work on making its administration more business-friendly, for instance by developing a single point of contact for companies and applying the only-once principle whenever it is possible.

HEALTHCARE – INVEST IN HEALTH

In Belgium, healthcare policy is divided between many levels of administration. Wallonia will therefore set its own multiyear objectives and agree on common goals for the entire country through dialogue with the other regions and the Federal Government.

The region will implement a plan in favor of prevention and health promotion, two key aspects which will be integrated in a broader reorganization of first and second line care. Additionally, the government plans to pass measures to define a legal framework for hospital networks, to encourage more cooperation between hospitals, and to give patients access to their health records through the development of a single digital platform.

Finally, to strengthen Wallonia’s healthcare ecosystem, international and regional research cooperation will be promoted. The new government has announced that it wants to invest 3% of GDP in research and development (R&D) before reaching 4% by 2035 and 5% by 2050. Innovation incentives and administrative procedures for R&D will be reformed and simplified.

Members of the Walloon Government

  • Elio Di Rupo (PS): Minister-President;
  • Willy Borsus (MR): Vice-President and Minister of Economy, Foreign Trade, Research and Innovation, Digital, Land Use Planning, Agriculture, IFAPME and Competence Centers;
  • Christie Morreale (PS): Vice-President and Minister of Employment, Training, Healthcare, Social Action, Equal Opportunities and Women’s Rights;
  • Philippe Henry (Ecolo): Vice-President and Minister of Climate, Energy, Infrastructure and Mobility;
  • Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS): Minister of Housing, Local Powers and Cities;
  • Jean-Luc Crucke (MR): Minister of Budget and Finance, Airports and Sports Infrastructure;
  • Valérie De Bue (MR): Minister of the Civil Service, IT, Administrative Simplification, in charge of Child Benefits, Tourism, Heritage and Road Safety;
  • Céline Tellier (Ecolo): Minister of Environment, Nature, Forests, Rural Areas and Animal Welfare.

AmCham Belgium looks forward to working with the new Walloon Government to make Wallonia more attractive for foreign companies and investors and to create more prosperity for all in the region!

About the author

Tom Declercq

David Gaier, Public Affairs Officer, 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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