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Elections 2014

Government Programs

Following the elections of May 2014, AmCham Belgium has made a comparison between the new governments' programs and our policy priorities (as outlined in our 2014 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium).

 

Federal Government

Federal Government

Brussels-Capital Government

Flanders

Flemish Government

Wallonia

Walloon Government

Labor Market

  • Labor Costs: Eliminate wage handicap vis-à-vis neighboring countries by streamlining employer social security contributions to a basic rate of 25%.
  • Flexibility: Simplify and modernize the labor market. Increase career flexibility.
  • Workforce activation: Increase the full career length to 45 years. Phased reduction of unemployment benefits. Abolish seniority supplement for the older unemployed.
  • Pensions: Increase the statutory retirement age to 66 in 2025 and 67 in 2030. Change the conditions (age, career length) required for early retirement. At 65, people with a career length less than 45 years can choose to retire or work longer. Establish a national advisory committee to continually monitor social and financial sustainability.
  • Support federal policy initiatives aimed at reducing labor costs, specifically for low wage earners
  • Eliminate personal income tax
  • Lower labor costs
  • Develop measures for target groups: older employees, early school leavers and people with disabilities
  • Encourage employment of low-skilled youth with social contribution rate of 0%
  • Identify ways to alleviate wage costs in collaboration with the social partners

Corporate Taxation

  • Reform, simplify, and modernize the fiscal system.
  • Certainty: Conclude a fiscal pact to remove uncertainty in the economic and fiscal environment for companies.
  • Simplification: Coordinate and bundle federal fiscal legislation in the Federal Fiscal Codex. Decrease administrative costs as a result of fiscal laws.
  • Incentivize work: Shift taxes from labor to consumption. Keep the social work bonus, strengthen the fiscal work bonus.
  • Trust building: Position inspection services as a partner for business. Strengthen trust between taxpayers and the tax administration. Reform the VAT system of fines and the default interests as a starting point to instill more trust from the taxpayers.
  • Financial Transaction Tax: Continue working constructively on the gradual implementation of the EU Financial Transaction Tax.
  • Increase property tax to compensate for changes to personal income tax
  • Make fiscal regimes more attractive, with clear and easy rules
  • Revise preferential schemes for SMEs
  • No tax increases
 

R&D and Innovation

  • Support innovation. Strengthen measures benefiting R&D
  • Better coordination between the regions with respect to research and public science policy
  • Fiscal incentives: Maintain the tax exemption for researchers and examine if it is opportune to strengthen this incentive. Examine expanding the tax deduction for income from patents to revenue from software licenses.
  • Entrepreneurship: Support entrepreneurship, with particular attention to SMEs.
  • Financing: Stimulate risk capital and crowdfunding.
  • Invest 3% of GDP in R&D, following the concept of ‘smart specialization’
  • Evaluate and optimize the support to business and promote investments in development of new companies grown out of higher education and research centers
  • Simplify mechanisms for research support
  • Invest 3% of GDP on R&D and strive for 1% government expenditure by 2020
  • Simplify support structures and instruments
  • Encourage culture of open innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Promote entrepreneurs and support SMEs in crucial phase
  • Eliminate the “stigma of failure”
  • Aim to spend 3% of GDP on R&D
  • Support entrepreneurial sprit
  • Develop competitive clusters
  • Encourage investments in innovation and applied research
  • Simply, clarify, and harmonize support systems for applied research, including creation of a ‘one stop shop’
  • Reinforce coordination between the different funding authorities
  • Reward forms of technological and non-technological innovation

Energy

  • Ensure a secure, affordable and sustainable energy supply
  • Costs: Create an energy norm to ensure, in function of user profile and energy intensity, that the different energy cost components are not higher than those in neighboring countries
  • Supply: Continue to look objectively and in full transparency at all different options to guarantee the security of supply in the short to middle term. Doel 1 and 2 to be extended to March 2015 and March 2016 respectively. The use of the reactors will not surpass 2025
  • Continue to develop demand-side management and interconnectivity
  • Improve the overall energy market investment framework
  • Ensure a “level-playing field” for Belgian production units in comparison with those in neighboring countries
  • Negotiate with neighboring countries to harmonize the measures concerning the security of supply
  • Establish a fund for the financing of energy savings works, taking over tasks of the FRGE, the federal fund for the reduction of overall energy costs
  • Take action to lower energy costs
  • Promote energy efficiency
  • Keep prices in line with neighboring countries
  • Apply energy norm for energy-intensive companies to ensure that the sum of additional costs and net tariffs are not higher than neighboring countries
  • Increase renewable energy targets for new construction and renovations of houses and non-residential buildings
  • Invest in green energy
  • Develop renewable energy: wind energy along roads and waterways
  • Reinforce coordination between federal level and regions on sustainable energy policy
  • Guarantee security of supply at the best price for business
  • Help businesses streamline their direct and indirect consumption of energy
  • Introduce compensation for indirect costs incurred by the EU CO2 quotas

Mobility

  • Ensure sustainable mobility
  • In consultation with the federal entities, continually evaluate the legislation to support technological evolutions
  • Stimulate the use of bicycles
  • Improve the accuracy of train times and offer better rail services
  • Stimulate transport of goods by rail to further develop Belgium as a logistics hub and remove as many trucks as possible from the roads
  • Tackle congestion and promote of smooth flow of traffic
  • Promote walking and biking
  • Pursue the development of the public transport network
  • Reinforce coordination of road construction
  • Promote carpooling
  • Harmonize regional parking plan regulations
  • Implement kilometer tax
  • Maintain position as European hub for logistics and transport
  • Evaluate road network for optimization
  • Complete infrastructure projects; increase efficiency, performance and integration of the current traffic and transport
  • Invest in bicycle infrastructure
  • Increase attractiveness of public transport, strengthen the existing network
  • Invest in tram infrastructure
  • Expand water transport network
  • Implement a kilometer tax for truck transport in 2016
  • Modernize mobility and transport
  • Develop regional mobility plan and a more coordinated policy between mobility and territorial development
  • Ensure good connections with neighboring countries and regions, especially Brussels
  • Propose efficient transportation interconnections
  • Promote and optimize public transportation
  • Encourage alternatives to individual car travel
  • Provide quality roads and continue on their improvement and maintenance.
  • No kilometer tax

The Skills Gap

  • In framework of pension reforms, emphasis placed on continuing education and internships/stage during and after education, without prejudice to the powers of the region
  • Cooperation between education and business world
  • Strengthen training and ties with education
  • Link education policy with regional policy
  • Maintain and improve level of education
  • Stimulate cooperation between higher education and business, labor market
  • Increase access to internships and trainings for youth
  • Promote synergies between companies, universities and research centers
  • Promote careers in research

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COMPOSITION

Prime Minister

Charles Michel

Deputy Prime Ministers

  • Alexander De Croo, Minister of Development Cooperation, the Digital Agenda, Telecommunications and the Post
  • Jan Jambon, Minister of Public Safety and the Interior, responsible for the Buildings Agency
  • Kris Peeters, Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumers
  • Didier Reynders, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs

Ministers

  • Daniel Bacquelaine, Minister of Pensions
  • François Bellot, Minister of Mobility
  • Willy Borsus, Minister of the Middle Classes, SMEs, the Self-Employed, Agriculture and Social Integration
  • Maggie De Block, Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health
  • Jacqueline Galant, Minister of Mobility
  • Koen Geens, Minister of Justice
  • Marie-Christine Marghem, Minister of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Johan Van Overtveldt, Minister of Finances, responsible for the Fight against Tax Fraud 
  • Steven Vandeput, Minister of Defense

State Secretaries

  • Pieter De Crem, State Secretary for Foreign Trade
  • Theo Francken, State Secretary for Asylum and Migration
  • Elke Sleurs, State Secretary for the Fight against Poverty and for Equal Opportunities, Handicap Persons and Science Policy, responsible for Large Cities
  • Bart Tommelein, State Secretary for the Fight against Social Fraud and for Privacy and the North Sea

Government Formation Timeline

 

Party Election manifestos

AmCham Belgium has made a comparison between our policy priorities (as outlined in our 2014 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium) and the election programs of the main political parties. 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.

Labor Costs

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Reduce social security contributions to 25% largely through eliminating structural deductions
  • Automatic indexation should only be applied to a fixed amount

cdh

cdh

CD&V

CD&V

Ecolo

Ecolo

Groen

Groen

MR

MR

N-VA

N-VA

Open VLD

Open VLD

PS

PS

SP.a

SP.a

  • Reduce social contributions on minimum salary (€1,501.82/month) and for entry-level jobs to 0%
  • Use €1.9 billion to reduce social contributions on low salaries/first employment/junior employees
  • Eliminate wage handicap by 2018
  • Additional decrease of employer social security contributions amounting to €3 billion
  • Shift labor charges to indirect taxes and green taxes
  • Increase labor market flexibility
  • Decrease need to finance social security through social contributions by introducing a “rebalanced social contribution” on all types of income, including asset – the lowest incomes will be exempt from this contribution
  • Reduce social security contributions for employers with €2.5 billion (0.6% GDP)
  • Subsidize all wages lower than median wages to increase purchasing power (0.6% GDP)
  • Will maintain automatic wage indexation
  • Spread wages across careers better, ie reduce disparity between young professionals and older employees
  • Create criteria for top salaries
  • Advocates for a reduction in social security contributions
  • Possible targeted reductions in social security charges include a focus on 30% of the lowest wages and targeting companies exposed to international competition
  • Exemption of first 3 employments for SMEs
  • General and structural decrease of labor cost through reduction of social contributions (3% of labor cost)
  • skipping one year of indexation of 2% (impact on labor cost 2%)
  • income tax bracket of 45% replaced by a tax rate of 40% in the short run
  • income tax ceiling of the 50% range is increased by 2.500 euro each year from 2018 on (so only very high income will marginally been taxed in the 50% level
  • Replace existing incentives by specific incentives focusing on certain target groups: older employees and early school leavers
  • wage bargaining: no automatic indexation of wages; all in negotiations for two years on sectoral basis+ opt out if employers and employees agreed
  • automatic indexation of social expenditures (eg pensions, employment benefits) at a fixed time in the year, excluding impact of indirect taxes and tempering impact of oil prices
  • Federal level: reduce labor costs by €1.35 billion and gradually reduce employer social security contributions by €3 billion linear (from 33% to 30%)
  • Flanders: increase reductions in social security contributions for under 30s and over 55s by €650 million annually
  • Targeted reduction of charges under the competitiveness pact (€1.35 billion)
  • Aim to reduce wage handicap to 9.9% by 2019
  • Reduce employer charges by €450 million every two years (2015, 2017, 2019)
  • Will link fiscal incentives to increased employment and investment in R&D
  • Maintain automatic wage indexation
  • Reduce employer social security contributions for low wages (€1.2 billion)
  • Increase the net income of low wage employees
  • Other targeted groups for reductions include the youth, low skilled and the older workforce as they have the lowest chance of securing employment
  • Maintain automatic wage indexation in its current form

Corporate Taxation

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Maintain the NID
  • Cease introduction of new taxes
  • Lower corporate tax rate to 29%

cdh

cdh

CD&V

CD&V

Ecolo

Ecolo

Groen

Groen

MR

MR

N-VA

N-VA

Open VLD

Open VLD

PS

PS

SP.a

SP.a

  • Eliminate the NID over a period of five years
  • Lower corporate tax rate first to 30%, then to 25% for MNC’s
  • Tax rate for SMEs lowered to 20% up to €150,000
  • Maintain the NID, especially now that Luxembourg has introduced it
  • Priority given to fiscal stability
  • Support Consolidated Corporate Tax Base
  • Eliminate the NID
  • Reduce corporate tax rate to 25% for SMEs
  • Introduce tax incentives for companies that actively develop Belgium’s economy
  • Reduce tax rate
  • Reduce “niche” regimes
  • Reform the NID
  • Use 50% of current NID “budget” to support investment deductions for SMEs
  • Lower corporate tax rate to 23% by 2016 for MNCs
  • Reduce rate to 20% for SMEs
  • Replace the NID with higher deductions for job creation and innovation
  • Maintain fiscal stability for a period of five years
  • Reduce tax rate to European average (27.13%)
  • Follow international trend of subjecting companies to tax where its profits are effectively realized
  • Maintain the NID
  • Examine possibility for SMEs to opt for simplified reduced tax rate without NID or specific deductions
  • Maintain a stable fiscal environment in order to maintain the trust of entrepreneurs
  • Charter between tax authorities and business
  • Eliminate the NID and reinvest extra funds into SMEs, R&D and job creation
  • Keep corporate tax rate at 33.99%
  • Create targeted investment deductions for companies investing to create a better work-life balance for employees (e.g. Daycare)
  • Work towards a minimum corporate tax rate
  • Supports the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT)
  • Advocate of Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base
  • Ambition to ban discriminatory tax regimes by EU Member States for non-residents

R&D and Innovation

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Relax red tape
  • Clarify existing legislation on the withholding tax exemption for researchers
  • Stimulate an innovative environment
  • Eliminate the “stigma for failure”

cdh

cdh

CD&V

CD&V

Ecolo

Ecolo

Groen

Groen

MR

MR

N-VA

N-VA

Open VLD

Open VLD

PS

PS

SP.a

SP.a

  • Stimulate innovation investments
  • Reduce costs for investments in human capital, efficiency and innovation
  • Increase the withholding tax exemption for researchers to 85%
  • Encourage synergies between universities
  • Facilitate increased access to capital for companies through crowdfunding and increased access to bank loans
  • Eliminate the stigma against failed entrepreneurship projects and encourage a ‘second chance’ mentality
  • Expansion of R&D benefits either through decrease of employer contributions or expansion of tax exemption
  • Increase access to capital for entrepreneurs
  • Stimulate and support creativity
  • Eliminate stigma for failure
  • Increase synergies between universities, government and companies through investing in R&D
  • Harmonize the researcher status
  • Harmonize R&D administration in Wallonia
  • Reform and simplify innovation aid for SMEs
  • Implement a ‘fast-track’ system for patents
  • Focus on innovation for sustainable energy
  • Encourage interdisciplinary research projects
  • Use public procurement as a lever to increase investments in R&D
  • Streamline and simplify R&D incentives to increase access for SMEs
  • Invest 3% of GDP in R&D by 2020
  • Strengthen synergies between companies, universities and government
  • Extend the notion of a researcher benefiting from tax exemption
  • Extend support for non-technological innovation
  • Coordinate R&D efforts and funding
  • Simply tax incentives to stimulate increased innovation in SMEs
  • Patent income deduction must be extended to non-technological innovation
  • Strengthen synergies between companies, innovators and universities
  • Simplify administrative procedures
  • Streamline R&D incentives
  • Invest 3% of GDP in R&D by 2020
  • Stimulate entrepreneurship
  • Invest €40 million a year in R&D
  • higher deductability of social contributions for researchers
  • Strategic plan for innovation which links R&D, industry, the economy and training through stronger synergies between universities, research centers and companies
  • Dedicate 3% of GDP to R&D
  • Maintain and design new tax incentives for R&D (mainly for SMEs)
  • Fund more risky, original projects by young entrepreneurs
  • Promote employment in research
  • Support non-technological innovation
  • Encourage start-ups through strengthening measures that support risk
  • Support and encourage R&D activities in SMEs
  • Increase the budget for science, R&D and innovation to achieve the European standard by 2019
  • Encourage entrepreneurship programs in higher education
  • Eliminate the stigma for failure

Energy

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Cost competitiveness
  • Guarantee security of supply

cdh

cdh

CD&V

CD&V

Ecolo

Ecolo

Groen

Groen

MR

MR

N-VA

N-VA

Open VLD

Open VLD

PS

PS

SP.a

SP.a

  • Invest in renewable resources
  • Invest in energy efficiency
  • Invest in smart grids and ensure that TSOs can support renewable energy
  • Increase energy awareness among the youth
  • Invest in wind farms along the motorway and offshore
  • Energy costs must be in line with neighboring countries
  • Reduce energy cost by €480 million for companies
  • Explore alternative energy resources such as biomass
  • Invest in energy technology
  • Invest in energy infrastructure
  • Raise investment deduction from 13.5% to 40.5%, for investments to improve energy effectiveness/develop renewable resources
  • Target of 20% renewable energy by 2020
  • Eliminate R&D investments in nuclear energy
  • Create a sustainable energy pact to guarantee a sustainable and secure supply
  • Invest in renewable energy technologies
  • Increase energy efficiency in industry, transport and housing
  • Create a level playing field between renewable energy resources and fossil fuels by reforming taxes that reflect social costs and benefits (ie establish a CO2 tax)
  • Invest in energy infrastructure and reinforce European grid interconnection
  • Stick to the agreed phase-out of nuclear energy
  • Against shale gas
  • Simplify and ensure transparency in energy bills
  • Advocate for a healthy energy mix, without ideological constraints (nuclear, coal, biomass, gas)
  • Will guarantee security of supply to avoid the cost of a black out
  • Make the energy transition an opportunity, not a handicap
  • Energy must be affordable for consumers and industry
  • Reduce cost of electricity
  • Advocate for a healthy mix of energy resources
  • Abolish nuclear energy by 2065 instead of 2025
  • Invest in green energy
  • Invest €40 million a year in energy efficiency
  • Keep energy prices in line with neighboring countries for consumers and industry through increased transparency of energy bills and cooperation between regions for determining accountability of price
  • Could implement a temporary price freeze if necessary
  • Coordinate with other European regions/countries to ensure security of supply
  • Promote research in nuclear technologies, has Belgium is internationally recognized in this field
  • Develop renewable resources
  • Invest in renewable resources
  • Place a cap on green subsidies for businesses and families
  • Supports the closure of nuclear plants in Belgium by 2025
  • Against the exploitation of Shale gas in Belgium and Europe

Mobility

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Safeguard Belgium’s strength in logistics by investing in infrastructure

cdh

cdh

CD&V

CD&V

Ecolo

Ecolo

Groen

Groen

MR

MR

N-VA

N-VA

Open VLD

Open VLD

PS

PS

SP.a

SP.a

  • Invest in expanding public transport
  • Introduce a single ticket system for all transport
  • Create a network to facilitate carpooling
  • Invest in public transport and introduce a one-ticket system
  • Kilometer tax for trucks in 2016
  • Invest in bike paths
  • Invest in inland waterways and harbors to minimize freight transport on the highways
  • Double public transport in the next 10 years
  • Invest in sustainable policies for infrastructure
  • Invest in green modes of transport
  • Invest in the rail networks for freight and passengers and renovate the train stations
  • Integrate public transportation companies, develop rapid transport systems in Belgium in order to offer fast connections and increased frequency to Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent
  • Introduce a kilometer tax for all motorists, replacing the current taxes on new road vehicles and yearly taxes
  • Underlines the findings of the Federal Planning agency that limiting a kilometer tax to trucks will barely have an impact on traffic
  • Replace the current company car regime by a more flexible mobility budget
  • Encourage carpooling
  • Develop public transport
  • Invest in road infrastructure and parking facilities
  • Invest in cycling paths and network
  • Invest in wallonian airports
  • Invest in public transport
  • Short term: address missing links in transport networks
  • Long term: introduce a kilometer tax
  • Invest in bike paths
  • Invest in inland waterways
  • Regionalize the train networks
  • Invest €200 million a year in mobility
  • Address ‘missing links’ in public transportation
  • Implement ‘Anti-traffic’ plan
  • Maintain Flanders’ reputation as a logistics hub
  • Increase labor market flexibility to avoid that everyone is going to the same areas at the same time
    Invest in public transport, particularly in rural areas
  • Coordinate mobility plans between communes, regions, EU
  • Invest in public transport
  • Implement a kilometer tax for trucks
  • Facilitate closer collaboration between transportation companies
  • Promote carpooling by providing fiscal incentives

The Skills Gap

AmCham Belgium

AmCham Belgium

  • Invest in training and skills development for all citizens

cdh

cdh

CD&V

CD&V

Ecolo

Ecolo

Groen

Groen

MR

MR

N-VA

N-VA

Open VLD

Open VLD

PS

PS

SP.a

SP.a

  • Increase support for vocational training and apprenticeships
  • Make practical experience part of education to bridge the gap between education and employment
  • Extend apprenticeships into different sectors
  • Extend teacher training
  • Encourage STEM students
  • Internships must become a part of education
  • Encourage students to work while studying
  • Introduce a contract for 18-25 year olds to facilitate internships for a period of 6 months (possibility to renew contract once)
  • Encourage flexibility and adaptability in employees
  • Reinforce support for language programs
  • Invest in training for all citizens
  • Ask every company to fill 1% with internships for young graduates
  • Encourage graduates to find the right job, and not just a job
  • Train employers in how to find talent
  • Stimulate STEM students
  • Links between schools and companies must be reinforced
  • Emphasis on developing technical skills at all levels of education
  • Introduce a more flexible university structure (ie allow students to switch degrees)
  • Encourage more students to choose STEM
  • Encourage and support multidisciplinary trainings such as internships
  • Invest €180 million a year in education
  • Invest in teaching materials
  • Introduce internships as part of education
  • Increase synergies between schools, companies and government
  • Increase information of subsequent employment opportunities related to studies
  • Ensure every young person has some sort of qualification
  • Promote learning on the job
  • Higher education should include a mandatory internship
  • Invest in lifelong learning for the older workforce