Belgium has not had a government in over 15 months. Yet their economy somehow managed to outperform those of the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Finland, and Switzerland in the last quarter of this year. Are government worthless or is this just another abnormality?
It has been 15 months since Belgium last had a government. More than 450 days later, Belgian politics remain stuck in a gridlock after election results meant that no single party received more than 17.4 per cent of seats in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives and 19.61 per cent in the Belgian Senate.
Thus far, efforts to form a coalition government have been fruitless. A caretaker cabinet, led by Yves Leterme, is currently in charge of the routine business of running the country; but they have little to no legislative or executive power to enact national policies.
“Technically this can last until the next federal election has to be called in 2014,” said political scientist Dave Sinardet to the BBC.
“Let’s say we have elections in 2014 and we have some problem forming a coalition, this caretaker government could still go on after that. As long as it commands a majority in parliament, the only obstacle to it continuing would be the fear of absurdity,” said Sinardet.
Belgian officials however appear to care less. Since the elections, 10 politicians have tried to negotiate a new government and none have succeeded. Francophone socialist Elio Di Rupo is the latest to give it a go, though the negotiations have reached another standstill, with The Associated Press reporting that Green Party negotiator Jean-Michel Javaux – also the mayor of Amay, a small eastern town – had to attend a town meeting to vote on, among other things, a new police car and a computer, while Yves Leterme is now on a visit to Israel.
In addition, Bart de Wever and his New Flemish Alliance party – the biggest winner in the 2010 elections – appear set on an “orderly breakup” of Belgium and would rather see coalition talks fall on the wayside.
“The worse things are in those talks, the better it is for the New Flemish Alliance,” said de Wever to the RTBf public broadcaster.
To an outside observer, the political situation in Belgium may sound absurd – laughable even – but perhaps the biggest joke of all has come in the wake of the latest quarterly GDP results released by the European Commission’s Eurostat Press Office.
In the last quarter, the Belgian economy has actually grown faster than that of a number of its neighbours including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Finland, and Switzerland. Belgium’s 0.7 per cent GDP growth was also higher than the euro zone’s average of 0.2 per cent.
Read the full story by Raymond Tham at EconomyWatch: Less Government, Less Problems: Belgium 450 Days Later
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