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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.



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.



Solvay links the cost of credit to a reduction in greenhouse gases

Solvay has agreed new terms in an existing €2 billion revolving credit facility, linking the cost of credit to a reduction in greenhouse gases. Solvay concluded this positive incentive agreement with its syndicate of nine banks. BNP Paribas Fortis is acting as Sustainability Coordinator and agent bank to Solvay’s long-term banking partners.

Solvay announced in September 2018 a commitment to cut greenhouse gases from its own operations by 1 million tonnes by 2025 relative to 2017 levels. The Group intends to achieve this reduction by further improving energy efficiency, energy mix and by investing in clean technologies. “We seek to integrate sustainability into all key aspects of our business, including financing. Associating Solvay's ambitious greenhouse gas emissions target to the cost of credit is a logical step. The successful teaming up with our banks shows that the way towards more sustainability is a collective effort," said Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, CEO of Solvay.

I am proud that Solvay has mandated BNP Paribas Fortis to introduce a Positive Incentive Loan mechanism that supports Solvay’s ambitions in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This innovative solution is a clear example of how we and the syndicated banks we represent aim to serve our clients in terms of value creation. Collaboration between banks and clients is key in driving the economy forward to a more sustainable future,” said Max Jadot, CEO of BNP Paribas Fortis.

Read the full Press Release



BNP Paribas Fortis : 2018 annual results

CEO Max Jadot: “In spite of the lower pace of economic growth, low interest rates and tensions in international trade, our net profits of 1.9 billion in 2018 held up well. We continued to realise our mission to support the economy in a sustainable way by enabling our clients’ projects and safeguarding and developing their assets. (…) In a highly competitive and fast-changing environment, we are building the bank for the world of tomorrow. I would like to thank our customers for their trust and our colleagues for their engagement and effort in achieving our goals.”

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2018 Full Year Results

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