On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, AmCham Belgium, with the support of 11 other foreign Chambers of Commerce, organized its first-ever #Yes2Belgium Election Debate! An exciting and candid discussion between 10 political parties on how to make Belgium more attractive for foreign investment.
More than 200 representatives of the international business community in Belgium gathered at ING Marnix to hear first-hand what 10 parties propose to further strengthen Belgium’s position as a place to invest and do business. Jointly organized by 12 Chambers of Commerce, representing the main foreign investors in Belgium, held in English, and moderated by Martin Buxant and Joan Condijts of the soon-to-be-launched Les News 24, the #Yes2Belgium Election Debate was a truly unique event on the political calendar.
It started with introductory remarks by Erik Van Den Eynden, CEO of ING Belgium, and Marcel Claes, Chief Executive of AmCham Belgium, who set the scene. Then, the following 10 panelists took the stage to exchange their viewpoints on how to make Belgium more competitive after the upcoming May 26 elections: Wouter Beke (CD&V), Alexia Bertrand (MR), Franc Bogovic (Open VLD), Jan Cornillie (sp.a), Antoine de Borman (cdH), Cécile Jodogne (DéFI), Marc Tarabella (PS), Wouter Van Besien (Groen), Johan Van Overtveldt (N-VA), Gilles Vanden Burre (Ecolo).
For about two hours, the panelists discussed the following four topics which reflect the concerns of the international business community:
Mobility is an important issue, because it causes many problems for employers and employees alike (for instance, it affects productivity, the delivery of goods…). The general agreement was that more investment and new, technology-driven solutions are needed to tackle traffic congestion, and the importance of quick wins was stressed.
2. LABOR MARKET
Our 10 panelists went on to discuss the issues companies are facing on the labor market, where there is a real struggle to find the talent businesses need to thrive and grow further. For some parties, more flexibility could be a solution, while others highlighted that lifelong training will give people the skills they need.
3. CORPORATE TAXATION
Moreover, as corporate taxation and labor costs remain high in Belgium, parties had different priorities: some of them want to further align the corporate tax rate with the European average, while others would rather cut taxes for workers who earn the least.
4. COUNTRY GOVERNANCE
In the end, all panelists agreed that Belgium’s extremely complex governance system is an important area of improvement for Belgium to become more competitive, although with different solutions: some of them are open to ‘re-federalizing’ some competences, while others want to give the regions more time to fully implement the powers which have been previously granted to them.
After this very successful debate, participants had the opportunity to discuss the proposals they had just heard during a networking reception. This event was an important step in our approach to make Belgium more attractive for foreign investment and get more international companies to say #Yes2Belgium!
With thanks to ING Belgium for sponsoring this event!