The FPB has revised its medium-term outlook for 2008-2013 for the Belgian economy. For the 2008-2010 period, the outlook adopts the international economic scenario provided by the OECD outlook of November 2008. The uncertainty surrounding the results is exceptionally large and downside risks could prove to be greater than upside risks. The greatest downside risks include a longer than expected period of distress on financial markets, and that emerging markets could be hit harder than anticipated.
The outlook for Belgium shows average GDP growth reaching only 1.5% during the period 2008-2013 (1.9% for the period 2001-2007). This relatively weak performance is largely explained by weak GDP growth in 2008 (1.4%), a fall in economic growth next year (-0.3%) and a limited recovery in 2010. Over the period 2011-2013, GDP growth is expected to stabilise at a rate slightly above 2%, which might not allow the output gap to be completely closed by the end of the projection.
After dynamic growth in 2007, private consumption expansion should be much more limited in 2008 and 2009. From 2010 onwards, household demand growth should increase gradually and then stabilise at a rate close to 2%. After dynamic growth in 2008, gross fixed capital formation should slightly decrease in 2009, before recovering in 2010 and increasing by 2.4% on average during the 2011-2013 period. Given the unfavourable international environment next year, exports are expected to decrease in 2009. Over the period 2010-2013, exports should increase by 4.4% on average and the contribution of net exports to GDP growth is expected to be slightly positive.
The worsening of the economic situation should lead to a decrease in employment in 2009. In the medium term, employment should increase again, at a yearly rate reaching 0.8% at the end of the projection. With employment growth heavily affected by the adverse economic situation in the short run and in view of the increase in the labour force, the unemployment rate (broad definition) will soar to 12.9% by 2010 (against 11.9% in 2008), before levelling off at around 13.2% from 2011 onwards. [...]