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High national debt and poor transport infrastructure hampering Belgium’s growth potential

Growth Promise Indicators 2019 - Belgium rates 16th

On July 15th 2019 KPMG launched the 2019 edition of the Growth Promise Indicators (GPI). Belgium made it into the top 20, coming 16th.


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  • Europe is home to the top-ranking GPI countries: Switzerland is in pole position at number one, with the Netherlands coming at an impressive second place.
  • In third place, Singapore is the only non-European country in the top five.
  • Many of the big global economies did not make it into the top 10: Germany (11), Japan (17), United States (20) and France (21).
  • Belgium made it into the top 20, coming 16th. Moderate to poor scores for infrastructure (primarily transport, road, and rail infrastructure) and macro-economic stability (mainly high levels of national debt) lowered the country’s total score.


KPMG launched the 2019 edition of the Growth Promise Indicators (GPI) on July 15th 2019. The GPI allows KPMG to examine 180 countries’ growth potential using five indicators: macroeconomic stability, openness and willingness to reform, infrastructure quality, human capital and institutional strength. The report notes that the GPI leaders are spread across the globe, with both Asian and European countries in the top 10 positions. With a total GPI index score of 7.6, Belgium is again among the top 20 countries in the GPI ranking for the fifth year running. “Our country has come in the top 20 again and maintained its position. This is positive, but there is room for improvement. If we want to maintain our position on the global stage, we have to continue making efforts to improve the quality of our infrastructure, have future-focused education and tackle our national debt,” says Koen Maerevoet, CEO KPMG Belgium.


Switzerland takes the top spot, followed by the Netherlands. Also in the top ten, Luxembourg and Finland have leapfrogged Norway. This year, we note that Mauritius, the Bahamas and South Korea have made considerable progress. 

Investments in infrastructure, mainly in “technology readiness,” seem to be paying off for South Korea: of all developed countries, it has made the most progress in the GPI rankings. India’s efforts towards greater transparency and improved business rights (such as property and intellectual property rights) have pulled the country up four spots in the GPI ranking. The United Arab Emirates has also climbed four places thanks to the progress made there in infrastructure and transport, in particular.


Belgium comes in16th place, with a total GPI index score of 7.6/10. With this ranking Belgium continues to be among the top 20 countries in the GPI ranking for the fifth year running. This is an admirable position to be in, but there is room for improvement.

The country’s score for macro-economic stability was noticeably low (3.2/10). This is, of course, due to successive budget deficit, which have caused historically high levels of national debt. Our current debt stands at over 100% of GDP. This has an especially negative impact on our total score. This poor score is offset by a remarkably high score for “openness.” Belgium has the maximum score ‒ 10 ‒ for openness to international trade, a particularly high score.

In infrastructure, Belgium scored 7.8 points, coming 21st globally. The overall score has grown steadily by 1.1 points since 2013. If we compare this with Switzerland (9.04 ‒ 1st place) and the Netherlands (8.7 ‒ 2nd place), the country can catch up. For the moment though Belgium is barely treading water. The transport quality score is very low: for road (5.6) and rail (5.2). For economic success in the future, the need for good transport infrastructure will only increase. Countries with poor scores in this metric will lose their competitive advantage.

“Continuing to work to improve our infrastructure will still be necessary in the upcoming term of parliament if we wish to consolidate our economic position on the global stage,” says Koen Maerevoet. “Reducing investments in infrastructure may seem a logical response at a time when cuts are taking place, but the authorities must also keep in mind that this can be a false saving in the long term. The environmental agenda will also increasingly influence governments’ transport policies.”

The country’s institutional strength is fairly good. It came ahead of France, scoring 7.6 out of 10. Belgium is notably strong in terms of business rights (0.8) and controls on corruption (8.0). We’re falling far behind when it comes to “transparency in policy-making,” where we score a mere 4.7 out of 10.

For “human capital,” Belgium scored 8.1/10, placing us 14th globally. This position has not changed in the last several years.

“Standing still is going backwards,” says Maerevoet. “We have to prepare our population for the future. The rapid rise of technology and the innovation linked to this is disrupting the market. People with the right skills and knowledge are the engine that will allow our economy to grow. For this reason, government and business must continue to ensure education is of high quality and that training is future-oriented. Investing in human capital and in skills will deliver a better return for our economy in the long term, and equip us for the future.”

© 2021 KPMG Central Services, a Belgian Economic Interest Grouping ("ESV/GIE") and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved. 

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