1. Market Research
Country Forecast Belgium September 2017

Country Forecast Belgium September 2017

  • September 2017
  • ID: 1698318
  • Format: PDF

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Policy towards private enterprise and competition


2017-18: Possible divestment of state's majority stakes in Belfius bank (formerly Dexia); Bpost, the postal operator; and Proximus (formerly Belgacom), a telecommunications firm. Increased focus on encouraging entrepreneurial activity.


2019-21: Modest steps at regional level to ease the regulatory burden on firms, but protective regulation across network industries and some business services persists. Continued growth of e-commerce spurs more competitive retail environment.


Policy towards foreign investment


2017-18: Regions compete to attract foreign investors; attitude towards foreign direct investment remains welcoming. Increased scrutiny from international bodies on tax arrangements used to attract and retain multinationals.


2019-21: Possible new initiatives to attract research and related business. Capital controls remain unlikely.


Foreign trade and exchange controls


2017-18: Foreign trade governed by EU rules. Ongoing Brexit negotiations with the UK dominate trade talks. EU-Canada trade agreement comes into force provisionally. Risk of worsening EU-Russia relations and US-sparked trade tensions.


2019-21: Agricultural protection persists. Little progress in world trade talks. Elements of EU trade agreement with Japan gradually begin to be implemented. The EU is likely to strike further bilateral trade deals.


Taxes


2017-18: Modest shift of tax burden from labour to indirect taxes via lower social security contributions, higher excise duties and value-added tax (VAT), and new stock exchange levy. Possible cut to headline corporate tax rate and new securities tax.


2019-21: Headline corporate tax rate may be cut from 34% to 25% in 2020. Modest changes to corporate tax framework amid international pressure. Tax incentives to encourage investment and innovation. Taxation of labour remains relatively high.


Financing


2017-18: European Central Bank (ECB) policy stance, alongside improved liquidity and capital positions, holds down banks' funding costs, but pressure on margins persists amid tighter regulation. Mortgage lending drives credit growth.


2019-21: EU banking rules strengthen resolution framework and ring-fence riskier trading activities. Weak profitability hampers efforts to strengthen capital bases. Gradual improvement in alternative forms of financing, such as venture capital.


The labour market


2017-18: Modest strengthening of wage growth and labour costs following the recent lifting of wage-moderation measures. Modified wage-indexation system aims to keep wage developments more in line with Belgium's peers.


2019-21: Employment rate rises gradually, but is likely to remain well below the EU average and official 2020 target of 73%. Tightening of welfare criteria and gradual rise in early and statutory retirement ages raise longer-term labour participation.


Infrastructure


2017-18: Brussels commuter rail services improve. Some investment in renewable energy. Greater focus on energy security.


2019-21: Long-term rail-investment programme improves passenger and freight transport, but roads remain congested.



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