Starting points

Clearly, there is a stark difference between the North and the South when it comes to political views, culture, the role of government versus the private sector, welfare and prosperity. These different views mean that a homogeneous policy can hardly exist. The views are too far apart to have a policy that adds value to Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.

Democratic deficit

The division in parliament into language groups allows French-speaking MPs to block the ideas of the Flemish majority in important areas. This also applies, among other things, to the financial relations between Flanders and Wallonia. The same democratic deficit is also contained in the parity composition of the federal government and the separate elections in the federal states. The laborious formation of a federal government is a consequence of this. It is accompanied by compromises that are detrimental to a strong policy on the Belgian budget and thus to everyone's prosperity.

Expensive structures

Homogeneous competence packages for the regions have long been advocated. This has happened for education and mobility, albeit not completely. All other competences remained federal or were fragmented between the two levels of government, resulting in: an expensive, incoherent policy.

Belgium today has seven governments and nine parliaments. The Walloon government is 50% more expensive compared to the Flemish one, taking into account the number of inhabitants. Moreover, the quality of Belgian public services leaves much to be desired. In its 'Value for Money' barometer, Voka concluded that in 15 of the 24 wealthiest countries, the government offers more quality at a lower cost than Belgium.

Unsustainable public finances

The result of all this is that Belgium seizes on about 55% of its Gross Domestic Product, the value of all the goods and services Belgium produces in a year, to cover its expenses. And even then this turns out to be insufficient. Belgium is more indebted and collects higher taxes than most European countries, but is unable to provide proper governance in return. Think of justice, internal security, law and order, defence, infrastructure or public transport. In its report, the EU Commission warns that Belgium's debt could become unsustainable in the medium term. That risk is mainly faced by Belgium and Wallonia, Flanders being the exception. Yet there is no sense of urgency to be detected at the Belgian level. The nonchalence with which the budget deficit and the total Belgian debt are discussed is highly curious. Higher taxes or extra credit are no solution because they compromise economic growth or weigh on credit ratings. Belgium's high federal debt is entirely caused by Wallonia.