"Please continue austerity policies"

VOKA, the network of Flemish businesses, has issued an open letter asking the Flemish and federal government to continue austerity policies and reforms in the coming years. At the same time, investments should be made. VOKA argues that the government's share in the economy is too big. "A lot has been done already, but the most difficult part is probably yet to come", 80 important entrepreneurs write in a joint statement.

"We've come a long way: both governments have made important changes. The first results are there: extra and jobs and a good investment climate. Still, the recovery is fragile one", explains Hans Maertens of VOKA.

"We call on the governments not to waste time, as challenges remain big. In order to safeguard the competitiveness of our businesses in the future, courageous steps will have to be taken on both the Flemish and federal level."

While spending cuts have already focused on the different administrations and public services, VOKA wants further cuts in this area. They also demand 700 million euros to invest in research and development, and at least 500 million for investments in infrastructure for mobility and education. "This should be possible considering the total Flemish budget of 40 billion."

Geert Bourgeois says 'yes' and 'no'

In a reaction, the Flemish PM Geert Bourgeois says he is not keen on further austerity measures, arguing that a lot of spending cuts have already been made in Flanders. "We saved 2 billion euros already." He also doesn't see where more money can be found: "Their letter doesn't say which services can be abolished."

Bourgeois promises that investments will be made though. "If all goes well, we will reach cruising speed in 2019. Then, we will have half a billion for mobility and public works, half a billion for infrastructure and welfare and half a billion for the economy and for R&D. But it will be hard to reach the 700 million they are asking."