Last week, the AmCham Belgium community kicked off 2021 with the #Yes2Belgium New Year live show – an opportunity to look back in appreciation and look forward with ambition. We were very honored to be joined in the BNP Paribas Fortis studio by Alexander De Croo, the Prime Minister of Belgium, who shared his wishes for the New Year and his vision for economic recovery and growth.
The event, moderated by Florence Muls, Managing Director, Interel Belgium, started with a conversation between Max Jadot, CEO, BNP Paribas Fortis, and Philip Alliet, President of AmCham Belgium and CEO of Aon Belux. On why companies should continue to say yes to Belgium, Mr. Jadot referred to Belgium’s strengths, including its multilingual and multicultural workforce, an ‘open for business’ attitude, and above all, a country with the right skills in place and a high level of education. Philip Alliet started by thanking the Prime Minister for bringing stability during these turbulent times and praising our member community for all their support in 2020. His main wish for 2021? For the government, public administration and business community to move forward as partners, in a spirit of collaboration. The President of the Chamber also emphasized the important role that international companies must play in the economic recovery and concluded with a call to invest in the future, where sustainability, digital and health will be key.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo started addressing our community with his New Year resolution: to give people their lives back, their freedom and dreams. “If people have their lives back, then people can dream again in their private lives, but can dream also in their entrepreneurial goals.”
The Prime Minister is convinced that Belgium will get out of this crisis stronger and stressed the importance of collaboration, which is not only needed to fight against the pandemic, but is also required to create stability and a long-term vision for this country.
During the event, we had the opportunity to ask Alexander De Croo his take on the five priorities which we identified last year for Belgium’s recovery and long-term economic growth in our 2020 Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium.
I think these are the right priorities. I think in general AmCham's analysis is quite spot on.
Out of our five priorities, Mr. De Croo emphasized the labor market. If, for example, labor participation is increased, this will have a positive (budgetary) impact which will also benefit other policy areas such as taxation.
In talking about the current Government, the Prime Minister explained that its diversity in views and opinions can be an asset for the country: “If each one of us brings to the table what we're best at, we can do incredible things.”
With Belgium about to receive €5.9 billion from the EU recovery fund, Alexander De Croo provided an overview of the investment priorities. These will focus around so-called ‘backbone projects’, which are core investments and can be the basis for other types of private-funded investments. While the funds will be split across the different governments, the Regions will work together on common goals such as sustainability, green mobility and digitalization. Above all, the projects that will be selected should lead to competitive advantage for the country.
Belgium is a complex country, admitted the Prime Minister, but there are many good reasons to invest here, and we should be telling positive stories to the world, such as the essential role Belgium is playing in the development, production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Prime Minister De Croo concluded with a very clear vision for the role governments must play these days: “As a government, it is our role to unleash the possibilities of our country and to activate the untapped potential.”
The event ended on a creative note with Belgian artist Charles Kaisin giving a short demonstration in the fine art of origami, inviting the participants to join him in folding a piece of paper into a bird. For every social media post (including a picture of your artwork!) with the hashtags #Yes2Belgium and #OrigamiForLife, we will donate €1 to the United Fund for Belgium – you can still participate in this charitable action until Friday, February 5!
AmCham Belgium would like to sincerely thank the Prime Minister for his time and support, Florence Muls for moderating, and Max Jadot and the entire team at BNP Paribas Fortis for kindly hosting the session.
About the author
Optimistic and always willing to discuss legal and economic developments, Gauthier translates expertise from our members to new policy opportunities for the Chamber. He gets his energy from either sports or breakfast.