It's amazing to which extent the current economical condition of Belgium is not daily frontpage news. Earlier this morning the news came out that Belgian's inflation rate of March went up to 4,39% . This is the same inflation rate as the expection as Brazil for 2008 (4,42%). And it is also where the comparison between Belgium and Brasil stops:
- Brazil will grow 5% this year, Belgium at most 1,4%.
- The buying power of Brazilians is increasing. In January the minimal wage went up 9%. Moreover, with credit to GDP only at 35% (compared to 200% in the US), there is considerable room for increased consumer and corporate leverage in Brazil. In Belgium the real buying power is decreasing drastically.
- Brazil has a positive trade balance, Belgium on the other hand is struggling to keep its trade balance in the black.
- Brazil became a net creditor, the Lisboa reform program will tell you that Belgium aims for a 0,6% budget surplus in 2008 to reduce its massive piles of debt, well let me tell you: not in a thousand years is our country gonna make that.
- And on top of that, we have a freaking Belgian timebomb of an upcoming boom of elderly people which we can only support with a 70% occupation rate (10% more than today) and more productivity. A 70% occupancy rate? Which country can reach that? And more productivity? Are Belgians robots or what? Belgium is already the country in the world where the satisfaction of people with their lives is decreasing fastest. In contrast with Brazil, where that rate is increasing. I'll write more about this soon; I believe this is even more alarming than the Belgian state of the economy.
Read that news again people, Belgium will have a growth rate in 2008 no more than 1,4%. Have you got any idea how dramatic this news is when mixed with the budget problems and the alarm on our greying society?
So, what can Belgium do?
1. Become more productive? Highly unlikeable. Rather the contrary, the possibities of productivity gains in emerging countries is far bigger. Ask Arcelor, Peugeot, Coca Cola or even our own Inbev.
2. A participation rate of 70%? People working until their 68 or what? Comon.
There's only one way, really: we need to drasdtically review our immigration policies.
Belgium has 1 million people with a foreign nationality and a permit to stay. We need to make a cleare public statement what this million people bring back to the Belgium society. I can't understand why this figure hasn't been made public yet. Belgium has 415.000 muslims. How many of them are Belgian, how many of foreign nationality. I want to know what the cost/benefit balance is of those of foreign nationality (the majority). A simple question, why can't we get a simple answer?
Why do those 1 million foreigner with a stay permit get OCMW aid, health care, social housing, free Dutch classes, integration courses,...?
I have no problems with people wanting to start a future in Belgium. I did the same going to Brazil. Brazil has been grown on immigration. But in a 'survival of the fittest' way.
People who want to come to Belgium? Fine, here are the steps:
1. When you arrive, you get no health care, OCMW support, housing support, unemployment beneift. Even not when married to a Belgian.
2. When you get a job, you get health care. When you fall out of work in the first 5 years after arrival in Belgium, you get 3 months unemployment support and free health care. If you haven't found a job within 3 months, too bad.
3. Dutch lessons: ask your employer to pay for you, or learn it yourself. It's not that hard, is it?
4. Integration courses? Open your eyes and read the newspaper.
5. Out of a job longer than 12 months in a row: too bad. Either you invest 50.000 EU in Belgium and start your own business, or you go back home.
6. Nationality? When you managed to stay 10 years in Belgium and as thus proved that you contribute to our society.
Whatever your color, whatever your nationality.
You go to a a Mosque, Umbanda or Macumba temple? I couldn't care less, as long as you contribute to our society and abide our laws.
This is exactly how foreigners are treated coming to Brazil. And I wonder what's so wrong or even undemocratic about it.
Once again, I want to know what the million foreigners in Belgium contribute to our society and when the balance is negative, what the government will do to alter this negative balance drastically. With those gains the Belgian government can lower the company and labour taxes. Maybe Belgium has a future then.