By Frédérique Dell
Each September, the Minister-President of the Flemish Government presents the “Septemberverklaring” speech in front of its Parliament. A “verklaring” literally means a statement or an explanation and, in this context, traditionally represents the opening of the new political work year. Geert Bourgeois is the current Flemish Minister-President (since 2014) and is a member of the NV-A party. He presented on the general social climate in Flanders, an outline on future policies and on the 2017 Budget.
Despite the economic uncertainty of the these past few months, the many strengths of Flanders, such as productivity of their workforces, their world-famous research centres and their innovative export firms, were underlined by Mr. Bourgeois. However, according to the Flemish Government, the slow economic growth and the recent State reform has caused a budgetary deficit that the Region is facing today.
The Minister-President reminded that the “Federal Planning Bureau” expected GDP growth to be lowered by 1.2% in 2017. Nonetheless, he drew an optimistic picture of the future investments that are foreseen for next year.
The Flemish government committed to even more investments in education and in research & development, considering these sectors as the hallmark of the Region’s prosperity. Flanders wants to invest in sectors where it can make an international difference: smart cities, circular economy and Industry 4.0 for instance.
Geert Bourgeois restated the ambitions of his government in terms of climate protection and renewable energy policies. The 2020 climate goals are still a priority in Flanders. Moreover, mobility policies will be even more oriented towards public transportation and biking facilities.
The subject of “new comers” has also been mentioned. Geert Bourgeois called for a “warm Flanders” where the fundamental rights and freedoms are respected and accepted by everyone.
The investments planned for next year were characterised as a Turbo by Minister-President Bourgeois. “The motor is switched on, it is running. Now, it is time for the Turbo” concluded his speech.
For more information on the Belgian budget talks, please contact the Political Intelligence Brussels Office.