Belgium, a failed state? Unsustainable public debt (1) 

Is onze staatsschuld nog langer houdbaar? 
La dette publique est-elle soutenable? 

Re-Bel Public Event, Fondation Universitaire/Universitaire Stichting 

Monday 11 March 2024, 17.00-18.30 

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Is Belgium a failed state? The successive crises of the last three years have put Belgium’s public finances under severe pressure. International organisations, European institutions and the National Bank frequently warn that Belgium’s public finances risk becoming unsustainable. Expressed per inhabitant, Belgium’s public debt is the highest in Europe.    

Current and future challenges, regarding for example our aging population, climate change or eroding defense capabilities, require substantial government investment. While these expenditures seem inevitable, the question increasingly arises as to whether the Belgian budget can still meet these challenges. Drawing up a sound and sustainable budget requires bold and determined action by the federal government, the Communities and the Regions. However, because of the autonomy granted to our federated entities, the federal government cannot impose targets on the Regions and the Communities or force non-compliant entities to fall in line. This makes coordination harder than in other systems. 

The broader question then becomes whether Belgian federalism is still capable of achieving the long-term policy goals of the 21st century. Whilst we tackle the goal of sustainable public finances in this Re-Bel event, we will explore the green transition and other challenges in future events. Do we need to rethink our institutions to come up with effective policies? Is closer cooperation sufficient, or are more forceful mechanisms necessary? Which other pathways exist to meet long-term climate and budgetary targets in an effective and coordinated way? 

Language regime: Dutch and French 

Speakers: Thomas DERMINE (federal State Secretary for Relance) & Koen GEENS (ex minister of Finance) 

Challenges: Magali VERDONCK (ULB) and Damien PIRON (ULiège) 

Moderation: Béatrice DELVAUX (Le Soir) and Karel VERHOEVEN (De Standaard) 

Introduction: Karel REYBROUCK (Re-Bel, UCLouvain, KULeuven), Céline ROMAINVILLE (Re-Bel, UCLouvain) & Willem SAS (Re-Bel, Stirling, UCLouvain, KULeuven) 

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