The medium-term outlook for Belgium points towards an average GDP growth rate of 2.2% during the 2006-2011 period, which is slightly higher than potential (2.0%). This pace of growth should follow a slowdown in economic growth in 2005 (1.5%) and a rebound in 2006 (2.4%). Economic growth in Belgium should remain slightly higher than in the euro area, on average.
Despite moderate wage increases, the average yearly growth rate for private consumption should reach 1.8% during the 2006-2011 period, in particular because of the increase in household disposable income (stimulated especially by reductions in personal income tax and increases in employment and social benefits). Investment growth should reach 2.5% during the 2006-2011 period, mainly reflecting the path of business investment growth, but also an acceleration in public investment at the end of the projection period. Growth in exports should be 5.4% on average and the contribution of net exports to GDP growth is expected to be 0.3%-points. The external surplus, which was strongly reduced between 2002 and 2005, should increase again after 2007 and attain 3.2% of GDP in 2011 (partly as a result of the improvement of the terms of trade). Limited increases in wage costs, the decline in oil prices after 2007 and a negative output gap until the end of the projection period, should allow the inflation rate to remain below 2% in the medium term.
The expected evolution of employment reflects a favourable macroeconomic context, a limited increase in wage costs and various policy measures. After the net creation of approximately 39,000 and 41,000 jobs in 2005 and 2006 respectively, about 35,000 jobs should be created every year during the 2007-2011 period. Between 2005 and 2011, industrial employment should fall by 30,000 persons, but the number of jobs created in market services should exceed 250,000. Nevertheless, in view of the strong increase in the labour force (mainly in the 50-64 age class) the fall in unemployment will be limited to 38,000 persons. The unemployment rate (broad administrative statistics) should fall from 14. [...]