Lunch Belgian investors - Davos, January 29th 2010 (closing speech)
Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests
It is a genuine pleasure and honour to address such a remarkable assembly of business people as we have with us today. First of all , I should like to thank HRH Prince Philippe for his warm words of welcome. Let me also express my thanks for your favourable answer to our invitation. We appreciate the opportunity you gave us, including Commissioner De Gucht who I would like to thank for his interesting words, to present to you Belgium as one the most, if not the most, desirable place in Europe to do business.
What we intend to do today is to illustrate to you the multitude of advantages for that Belgium offers foreign companies to do business, not only in my country but also in Europe as a whole. For companies who desire to invest in Europe, Belgium may not be an obvious choice; and indeed other countries, like the United Kingdom, Ireland and France are better known. Nevertheless I trust that after this lunch, you will be enticed to at least have a look beyond the obvious choices.
As our Prime Minister pointed out, it should be no surprise that Belgium is the most globalized economy in the world. The smaller a country is, the larger the abroad it has. This is indeed a fact of life for Belgium. It is our fate but even more our good luck to depend on interaction with our neighbours, and with the world at large, for our prosperity. In the course of centuries we have developed international interaction, in particular in the economic field, into a kind of art that has become part of our national character. We hope the Belgian CEO’s present here could convince you that it is in your interest to take advantage of this.
Your Belgian table companions will have told you in the course of this lunch about the many assets Belgium presents to foreign companies who are interested to do business in Europe : excellent transportation facilities, perfect location in the heart of Europe, outstanding ICT infrastructure, world class academic and scientific institutions, availability of a well trained, flexible, productive and multilingual labour force, proximity of the European Union institutions.
Our federal and regional governments are constantly improving the business and investment climate. Just remember that in 2010 we will take the necessary measures to be competitive on wage and to maintain a higher productivity than our neighbouring countries. We have a very generous tax system for research, and our education systeem is among the world top performers. Belgium is a logistic country with performant harbours (and airports) and a government that is keen on facilitating trade by reducing red tape . All of this simply makes Belgium an attractive country for foreign investors. This should be common knowledge but no other investor will tell you that secret. Two very tangible measures have pushed Belgium to the top of the charts in international comparative studies on the tax treatment of foreign investments. One is the system of tax rulings which provides legal certainty on the tax treatment of new investments. The other is the notional interest deduction which, according to recent studies, drastically reduces the effective tax rate on capital and on corporate earnings.
At the end of this lunch, you should have quite a good picture of my country. However, nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes. I therefore extend to you who don’t know Belgium yet, a cordial invitation to visit and to experience what is perhaps our best kept secret : the people of Belgium and the unequaled quality of life.
I’m sure you will have interesting debates the rest of the day in Davos and thank you for your presence and attention.
Only spoken word prevails