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The Ageing fund, which was set up in 2001 as an instrument to ensure the long-term sustainability of public finances, was abolished in 2016. Its abolition symbolises the transition from a strategy of pre-funding the budgetary cost of ageing, which dominated in the early 2000s, to a strategy based mainly on reforms to the socioeconomic model. The latter was initiated after the global financial crisis and has been firmly stepped up in recent years. This Planning Paper describes the economic and institutional factors behind the shift in sustainability policy, as well as the role of the various stakeholders: the governments of course, but also the High Council of Finance, the European authorities and the Federal Planning Bureau, which has produced long-term analyses and assessments over the past 25 years that have both reflected and helped to shape the pursued policy.
Improving the functioning of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) is back on the agenda, especially as the decline in public investment resulting from fiscal adjustment processes implemented according to the current Pact rules is seen as a brake on future economic growth. When discussions about a Pact revision in 2005 were under way, several major authors (for instance: Blanchard and Giavazzi in CEPR February 2004) suggested reverting to a golden rule under which the deficit would exclude investment expenditure, net of amortization. The Pact was revised in 2005 but this proposal was not adopted. This paper presents a new attempt to integrate a proper accounting of investment into the Pact by modifying the formula of the MTO (Medium Term Objective for the budget balance), without losing the other dimensions of the present formula: the partial provisioning of the so-called cost of ageing and the accelerated debt reduction for highly indebted countries. In this way, the public investment programme becomes a centrepiece of the structural policy of a government and not the first instrument of a cyclical policy.
This Working Paper studies the financial and social sustainability of the Belgian social protection system. The results of this publication were presented at the 20st Congrès des économistes belges de langue française and published in the conference proceedings. Assuming no policy changes and against the background of population ageing, the long-term public finance projections highlight an important budgetary challenge. In that framework, this paper examines a number of pathways based on the three pillars of the European strategy as determined during the 2001 Stockholm summit. The budgetary strategy (pillar 1) of the Belgian stability programme in itself does not guarantee the long-term sustainability of public finance and should, therefore, be completed by reforms in support of economic growth (through employment or productivity, pillar 2) or reforms of the pension schemes (as part of pillar 3). The social consequences of the reforms which alter the generosity of the pension schemes should not be overlooked.