Last Tuesday, we welcomed Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon for our second AmCham Belgium meets event of 2021. During the event, the Minister-President shared his view on the state of affairs and how he sees Flanders moving forward after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Jambon began the session with a reminder of our shared responsibility to follow the measures necessary to ease the pandemic: “This is not just a health crisis, but also a behavioral crisis”. He then moved on to talk about the seven pillars of the ‘COVID-19 Flemish recovery plan’. While these are largely attributed to Flemish investment, Minister-President Jambon stressed the need for federal cooperation and European support.
The seven pillars of the ‘COVID-19 Flemish recovery plan’
- Address the issues in the healthcare sector that the pandemic has brought to light: the Minister-President believes in more autonomy for Flanders and used facemasks as an example to argue that the region should protect itself by either stockpiling goods or producing locally.
- Tackle ‘red tape’ and reduce bureaucracy in order to save costs and to achieve a more efficient government.
- Connect Flanders digitally to be at the forefront of the digital revolution. This transformation includes all sectors as well as the government apparatus. The ambition is for the region to lead the way in data technology, standardization and innovation.
- Continue the transition to a low-carbon economy with a strong focus on research and development.
- Invest in infrastructure for all sectors.
- Keep businesses afloat with the measures implemented during the pandemic, namely by continuing to support the tourist and hospitality industry.
- Train jobseekers in order to raise the employment rate from 75% to 80%.
Furthermore, the Minister-President spoke of Flanders’ need for more ‘knowledge training’ and how this can positively impact employment. He also urged companies to be flexible and act based on a long-term vision, especially when it comes to labor planning, predicting a shortage of labor post-COVID-19.
On the current vaccination process, the Minister-President noted that Flanders is ahead of schedule and the distribution now depends on the delivery of the vaccines.
Regarding the funding of the relaunch, he admits that tax revenue is lower due to the COVID-19 crisis. Although it’s still too early to assess the full extent of damage to the economy, he believes that the relaunch will naturally be supported by consumer spending once everything is able to fully open again.
Mr. Jambon tentatively indicated a balanced budget might be achieved in the year 2024, but also stressed the importance of longer-term spending plans:
Over the years ahead, we will be investing €4.3 billion in securing the prosperity of Flanders and the well-being of all its citizens. This is the most ambitious investment plan that any Government of Flanders has ever launched.
The session was drawn to a close by Joost Van Roost, Chair of the our Antwerp Chapter, who stated that although we cannot predict the difficulties ahead, with the vaccination rollout, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and hope for the Flemish recovery plan to revive the economy.
AmCham Belgium would like to thank Annick De Ridder, Member of the Flemish Parliament and Alderwoman for the Port of Antwerp, for moderating this session, as well as our Antwerp Chapter, its Chair Joost Van Roost and Vice-Chair Joris Bulteel, Partner, Whyte Corporate Affair, for their support with this event.
About the author
Alicia is involved in planning, organizing and evaluating events at AmCham Belgium and provides supports to the member community. She is a Sustainable Development graduate and joined the Chamber in September 2020.