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Q3 2016: Economic outlook for Belgium

Arne Maes, economic advisor at BNP Paribas Fortis, expects economic activity to increase by 1.2% in 2016.

Real wages will rise more slowly, keeping consumption growth low, but this will be more than compensated for by an increase exports and investments.

Belgium's Country Specific Report, published earlier this year by the European Commission, once again emphasised the need to tackle the country's weakened position in terms of competitiveness when compared with other countries. The Michel I government's wage reduction policy, of which the index jump is a major part, was the first step in the right direction.

Since late 2014, wage growth has slowed considerably in Belgium, with labour costs remaining stable in the final quarter of 2015. In this way, export companies' competitive disadvantage – built up over the years – is being systematically broken down.

The tax shift, which reduces taxes on labour, must also be seen in this context.

By reducing social security contributions, labour costs can be brought even closer to the levels of neighbouring countries. As a direct consequence of this, real wages in 2016 will hardly rise at all. The increased growth in employment figures, partly due to the incentives provided by the tax shift, do not fully compensate for this effect. Private consumption is therefore increasing at a slower pace than in 2015.

Trade with other countries is expected to provide the main growth contribution to GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

While disappointing levels of activity in emerging countries – including the so-called BRIC countries – is causing severe strain on different EU Member States, Belgian export activity remains largely unaffected. In fact, some 75% of the turnover of exporting companies will be generated by intra-EU trade. Now that the aforementioned policies are slowly beginning to bear fruit, export growth is expected to continue.

Government spending will, for the most part, have to remain at a stable level for the next few years. This is a direct consequence of its goal of eliminating the structural deficit by 2018.

Nevertheless, we expect the public deficit in 2016 to be similar to that of last year, i.e. 2.6% GDP. The deficit could not be reduced quicker due to extra budget expenditure on migrant reception and security, which together accounted for 0.3% of GDP.

Thanks to the European Central Bank's low interest rate policy, the interest burden on outstanding public debt can be refinanced more cheaply. Ideally, this surplus should be used to swiftly reduce the total debt, as it currently remains very high at 107% of GDP.



Test it here: how sustainable is your organisation?

BNP Paribas Fortis' Sustainable Business Competence Centre (SBCC), which helps companies transition to a sustainable business model, has developed a test to help you determine your company's progress in achieving sustainability. You can set to work immediately with the results of this test.

As Belgium's largest bank, BNP Paribas Fortis wants to drive socio-economic development in our country. This development requires companies to transition to a sustainable business model. As this is not particularly straightforward, BNP Paribas Fortis wants to make its expertise available to its customers.

One of the SBCC's initiatives is a brand-new test aimed at corporates, SMEs and institutional customers. The test consists of 15 questions relating to the steps you need to take to become more sustainable: awareness, diagnosis, quick wins, business model and cooperation and innovation. Once you have finished the test, you will receive the results in your mailbox instantly.

The SBCC uses your answers to make practical recommendations for your journey towards more sustainable entrepreneurship. In addition, we have all the resources needed to guide you throughout your transition from start to finish:

  • technological expertise in high-tech, ICT, biotech, medtech, clean and green tech, and more
  • a network of companies and business associates
  • financial products and services that facilitate the transition to a sustainable model

Is your organisation ready for a sustainable future?




BNP Paribas Group, second quarter 2019 results

The business of BNP Paribas was up this quarter in a context where economic growth remained positive in Europe but slowed down, implying expectations of a continued low interest rate environment.

Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé:
BNP Paribas delivered in the first half an increase in net income at 4.4 billion euros. Revenues were up thanks to business growth in the operating divisions. Operating expenses were well contained and benefitted from the transformation plan, generating a positive jaws effect. The common equity Tier 1 ratio rose to 11.9%, illustrating the Group’s solid balance sheet. New digital experiences rolled out for customers are a success and the Group is actively executing its ambitious policy of engagement in society. I would like to thank all the employees of the Group for their dedicated efforts to achieve these good results.

One pager with the results
The press release



BNP Paribas Group, first quarter 2019 results

The business of BNP Paribas was up this quarter for the three operating divisions with in particular a gradual upturn in the business of CIB. Economic growth slowed down in Europe but remained positive. After the crisis in the markets at the end of 2018, the market context remained lackluster at the beginning of the quarter, but improved towards the end of the period.

Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé:
“BNP Paribas delivered a good level of result this quarter, at 1.9 billion euros. Revenues were up thanks to business growth in the operating divisions with in particular an upturn in client business at CIB. Operating expenses were well contained and benefitted from cost saving measures, generating a positive jaws effect.”

BNP Q1 2019 results 1

BNP Q1 2019 results 2

One pager with the results
The press release



Do companies really want a more sustainable world?

Yes, the success of our Sustainable Business Ateliers is good proof of that. Most companies are aware of their social responsibility, but some are in need of information. To help them on their way, BNP Paribas Fortis organises regular regional Sustainable Business Workshops. Last year, our bank organised two pilot sessions in Liège and Limburg and more recently it was the turn of Namur, Gits (in West Flanders) and Ghent. Other Belgian cities will be announced soon.


During the Sustainable Business Workshops the invited clients are inspired by the experts from our Sustainable Business Competence Centre, and by other clients who speak about the actions they have already taken with their business.

After the presentations, participants are divided into groups and share experiences led by a moderator.

How do clients rate them?

Feedback from the participants revealed that the focus on cooperation and networking opportunities are the greatest advantages of the Workshops. Those attending always include representatives of small, medium-sized and large businesses from a variety of sectors - a diversity which participants find highly enriching. After all, no single company can overcome all of the present challenges on its own. Companies will not only have to cooperate with one another, but also with the government, universities, startups, etc. to make progress.

According to the participants, BNP Paribas Fortis is also the only financial service provider that goes great lengths to support companies in the area of sustainable business, by analysing at which stage of the sustainable business path the companies are and by guiding them to use sustainability as an opportunity for their activities.

Do you want to participate in one of our Sustainable Business Workshops? Please contact your Relationship Manager for the practical details.

Not a client yet? And do you want to know more about the guidance we offer and the benefits of sustainability for your company? Discover what our Sustainable Business Competence Centre can do for you.

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