Europe provides 5 billion euros in investment subsidies to put the economy in our country on the track of recovery. That will only be money well spent if we link it to real reforms. Also in areas that are still taboo.
Secretary of State for Relance Thomas Dermine (PS) gives for the first time an insight into how he wants to get the economic engine running again next year.
It is refreshing and hopeful that Dermine – along with Deputy Prime Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne already in communication the embodiment of ‘le Nouveau PS’ – sees the recovery as a moment to not only restart our economy, but also to steer it in a different direction. .
Our economy has a productivity problem and must opt more for sectors that are future-proof. And not for sectors that may have been hit hard by corona and therefore rely on corona families, but are not structurally future-proof in themselves. Climate investments, digitization, telecom networks, mobility solutions and the hydrogen economy, those are the right directions. We have world-class research on hydrogen and life sciences, among other things. Putting an accelerator on it creates opportunities. Imagine the first aircraft to fly on hydrogen thanks to research and technology Made in Flanders / Belgium.
So much for Dermine’s clear vision. But if that theory does not want to remain a dead letter, it must say b in addition to a. And also want to help solve typical Belgian diseases.
We have world-class research on hydrogen and life sciences, among other things. Putting an accelerator on it creates opportunities. Imagine the first hydrogen aircraft with technology Made in Flanders / Belgium.
Firstly, the recovery should go as much as possible to investments in those projects, and not to directly subsidizing people’s purchasing power. You can provide targeted support to groups that are experiencing extra difficulties in this corona crisis. But handing out money to everyone is not the best way. And that is precisely what the socialist supporters demand. How resistant is ‘le nouveau PS’ to this?
How do you help our exports, so vital in our small, open economy, if you only stimulate the purchasing power of the Belgian consumer? That’s a bad idea. Our economy is mainly export-oriented and with that Belgian purchasing power, that export side is not helped. In addition, the money that is given to purchasing power also leaks away abroad, to Bol.com’s and imported products.
If we want the government billions pumped into investment to really pay off, we also need to make our labor market less rigid and more flexible and adjust our tax system.
Second, in order to submit a good file to Europe for those 5 billion recovery euros, the best projects for the whole country must be selected. The best are the most productive and forward-looking. The Consultation Committee of the various governments in this country must reach an agreement on who does and who does not, and which governments receive how much. Are they going to use a Flemish-Walloon pharmacy dish? Or be led by sectors with great lobbying power? That would be a great pity. The only guiding principles are the most promising innovations and the productivity of the investments.
Before the end of the year, the regions are demanding clarity about who will receive which share of the cake. The first shots have already been fired. Don’t let that be the main argument. White elephants with large useless structures because everyone had to have something, no thank you.
Third, if we want the government billions that are being pumped into investment to really pay off, we need to overcome other taboos as well. Our labor market remains too rigid and must be more flexible. Our tax system is not adapted to a new economy in many aspects. Our decision-making on matters such as superfast internet must be much more efficient. Those yards are either not listed or with many loose ends in the Vivaldi coalition agreement. Only when relance is actually written with the R of those ‘réformes’ will it be successful.