The medium-term outlook for Belgium points towards an average GDP growth rate of 2.1% during the period 2007-2012, which is slightly higher than the potential rate (2.0%) and similar to the average growth rate of the euro area. This pace of growth follows a strong rebound in 2006 (3.0%), mainly driven by domestic demand, in a context of an improvement in international economic activity.
The average yearly growth rate for private consumption should reach 1.8% during the period 2007-2012, which is slightly lower than the increase in households’ disposable income. Purchasing power will especially be underpinned by employment growth in 2007 and 2008 and by higher increases in wages and social benefits at the end of the projection period. Investment growth should reach 2.7% during the period 2007-2012, reflecting the path of business investment growth (supported by high business profitability and stable demand prospects), but also an acceleration in public investment at the end of the projection period. Growth in exports should reach 5.7% on average and the contribution of net exports to GDP growth should amount to 0.2%-points. The external surplus, which was strongly reduced between 2002 and 2005, should (slowly) increase from 2007 onwards and attain 3.1% of GDP in 2012. The combination of moderate increases in domestic costs and limited rises in imported costs should allow the inflation rate to remain below 2% in the medium term.
The expected evolution of employment reflects a favourable macroeconomic context, limited wage increases (mainly at the start of the period) and various measures taken to promote employment. After a particularly high number of new jobs created in 2006 (44,000), employment growth should remain sustained: about 38,000 units should be created every year during the period 2007-2012. Between 2006 and 2012, manufacturing industrial employment should fall by 41,000 units but the number of jobs created in market services should exceed 256,000. As the number of newly created jobs is growing faster than the labour force, the unemployment rate (broad administrative statistics) should fall from 13. [...]