Federation of Belgian Enterprises warns of underlying economic problems
The Belgian economy is showing many cracks beneath the surface, the Federation of Belgian Enterprises (FEB) warned on Friday. Belgian industry in particular is experiencing difficult times, according to the country's largest employers' organisation.
While the Belgian economy held up well last year, the foundations of this growth are shaky. Industries such as chemicals, bricks and glass are struggling with expensive energy and a 14 per cent wage handicap. According to the FEB, industry is therefore in recession.
The FEB is more optimistic about the services sector. Companies in the ICT sector, for example, are still experiencing solid growth. "But without industry, no services," says FEB managing director Pieter Timmermans.
The FEB's biannual survey of its members shows that companies have seen profitability fall in recent quarters and - after a year of remarkably high investment - expect to invest less in 2024. Companies also expect employment growth to be lower next year. The ICT sector is the exception to these two assumptions.
For 2024 as a whole, the FEB expects economic growth to be 0.6 per cent, down from 1.4 per cent in 2023. The FEB is most concerned about foreign trade - traditionally very important for an open economy like Belgium's - and the declining market share of its companies on international markets.
To address these issues, the FEB is calling for the rapid formation of a government after the May elections so that structural reforms can be implemented. Restoring competitiveness, reforming the labour market and tackling the budget deficit should be top priorities.
© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK