Following the new budget agreement, the Federal Planning Bureau released its evaluation of the country’s competitiveness on November 27. Drawing the same conclusions as AmCham Belgium, the assessment calls for an immediate reform of the labor market and public support for R&D and innovation.
The Federal Planning Bureau points out that, while the attempt to eliminate the ‘wage handicap’ is important, it is not enough to place the Belgian economy on a competitive footing. Its analysis of Belgium’s current economic strife points primarily to the high cost of labor and high public spending due to subsequent wage subsidies. Given the current state budget, this strategy is no longer tenable, leaving an urgent need to focus on sectors that will stimulate economic growth.
Belgium has a good employee performance record, with a diversified and highly skilled workforce. However, elevated wages in combination with high taxes have had a negative impact on business and investment in Belgium, particularly in the industrial sector. In line with AmCham Belgium, the Federal Planning Bureau has thus called for structural reforms based on a strategy of innovation. There should be more public support for R&D and innovation so that companies can develop, produce and disseminate new technologies. This in turn will promote entrepreneurship and investment.
The pharmaceutical sector is an example of a thriving field based on R&D and innovation. Eric Nys, partner at Deloitte, says that with its first class universities and teaching hospitals, Belgium has enormous potential to expand this industry. Indeed, it already has a vital influence on the economy, employing over 30,000 people and accounting for over €36 billion a year in exports. With the correct stimulus, Mr. Nys believes that Belgium could become the European leader in biopharmaceuticals.
Encouragingly, the federal government and the Belgian pharmaceutical sector have relaunched the Biopharma dialogue platform in order to attract new investors and to consolidate existing pharmaceutical investments in Belgium. The five biggest laboratories – GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, UCB, Pfizer and Baxter – all of whom are members of AmCham Belgium, are represented in this dialogue. This is a good example of a proactive and participatory approach to stimulate growth.Source: AmCham