The latest update of the FPB’s medium-term outlook for Belgium is pointing towards GDP growth of 2.3% on average from 2004 to 2008. This development can be largely accounted for by domestic demand, whereas the role of (net) exports is expected to be more limited. After moderate growth in 2003, the evolution of private consumption should be more dynamic during the 2004-2008 period, particularly thanks to a favourable development in households’ disposable income (stimulated especially by reductions in personal income tax). The growth in gross fixed capital formation should reach an average of 2.9% during the period 2004-2008, notably reflecting the expansion in business investment. Export growth should be 5.1% on average, compared with growth of 5.6% in our potential export markets: the structural loss of export market share should be confirmed.
Inflation should be below 2% in the medium term, thanks to moderate wage increases compatible with productivity gains, cuts in social security contributions and the extension of production capacity. Employment is expected to show a gradual improvement: an average increase of 34,000 jobs should be seen during the 2004-2008 period. The unemployment rate in a broad sense should decrease from 14.2% by mid-2003 to 12.8% in 2008, a large proportion of the labour expansion being absorbed by growth in the labour force.
Given the present prospects for future economic growth, assuming no policy change but taking into account the most important measures decided within the framework of the 2004 budget, the financing capacity of public administrations should go into deficit in the medium term (0.5% of GDP in 2008). The goal of a positive financing capacity (0.3% of GDP in 2007) is not expected to be reached without additional budgetary measures. Nevertheless, the total public debt to GDP ratio should continue to fall, going down by about 17 percentage points between 2002 and 2008.