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Economic Overview

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Situated between the UK, Germany and France, Europe’s three main economies, Belgium benefits from a strategic geographical position. Despite experiencing a historic recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Belgian economy rebounded strongly in 2021 and the first half of 2022. However, high energy prices, declining confidence and weakening international trade slowed GDP growth in the second part of the year, with the IMF estimating an overall growth of 2.4%. Private consumption is expected to remain weak until mid-2023 despite the automatic indexation of wages, same as for international trade (Belgium is highly exposed to the performance of its main trading partners); thus the IMF forecasts a growth rate of only 0.4% this year before a rebound in 2024 (1.4%).

As the government measures taken to contain the effects of the pandemic weighed considerably less on public finances in 2022, the budgetary cost of measures to mitigate the impact of high energy prices contributed to a high budget deficit (4.8% - IMF). In 2023, the government deficit is forecast at 4.6% by the IMF, although the European Commission expects it to increase to 5.8% amid lower corporate tax revenue, the automatic indexation of public sector wages and social benefits, and a rising interest rate burden. After decreasing to 103.9% in 2022 - from 108.4% one year earlier -  the debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to rise to 105.1% of GDP this year and 107.2% in 2024, driven by high budget deficits. Headline inflation reached an unusually high level of 9.5% in 2022 as the sharp increases of wholesale gas and electricity prices have transmitted quickly to retail prices. Both headline and core inflation are projected to remain high in 2023 (4.9%) before subsiding the following year (1.1% as per the IMF forecast, 3.3% according to the EU Commission).

Unemployment decreased to 5.4% in 2022; however, rising uncertainty and the downturn in economic activity may moderate the performance of the labour market, with the level of unemployment floating around 5.6% over the forecast period (IMF). The low labour market participation rate remains a major challenge for Belgium in the coming years, with unemployment disproportionately affecting young people, non-European immigrants and the region of Wallonia as a whole. Overall, Belgian citizens enjoy a high GDP per capita, estimated on average at USD 62,065 by the IMF for 2022.

Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 579.06627.51658.12682.07703.75
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 49,84353,65756,08557,95559,594
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -4.4-4.9-4.7-4.8-5.1
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 105.1106.0106.8108.5110.9
Inflation Rate (%) n/a2.
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force)
Current Account (billions USD) -20.67-16.98-12.78-8.07-5.20
Current Account (in % of GDP) -3.6-2.7-1.9-1.2-0.7

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , October 2021

Country Risk

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Main Sectors of Industry

Belgium’s strategic geographical position, its highly developed transport infrastructure, its wide range of services and its influence in industry and high tech have contributed to the development of its economy. Agriculture contributes a small amount of the national GDP (0.7%) and employs 1% of the active population (World Bank, latest data available). The main crops are sugar beets, vegetables and fruits, meat and milk. According to data by StatBel, organic farming accounts for 7.2 % of the utilized agricultural area, of which 90.8% is located in Wallonia. In 2022, the production value of the agricultural sector increased by 19.5%; however, rising energy costs and inflation directly affected all inputs to the agricultural sector: expenditure on fertilisers rose an estimated 86% in 2022, energy by 67.3% (StatBel).

The industrial sector accounts for 19.6% of GDP, employing 21% of the workforce. There are significant discrepancies between the three Belgian regions: while Flanders has succeeded in developing the second largest petrochemical industry in the world, Wallonia is in the middle of restructuring, following the closure of its collieries and a large number of steel plants. Brussels distinguishes itself in the areas of telecommunications, software development and the pharmaceutical and automobile industries. Despite that its contribution to GDP has been decreasing in recent years, the manufacturing industry is still key to the Belgian economy (12%).

The Belgian economy is largely oriented towards services. In fact, the tertiary sector accounts for 68.8% of the GDP and employs 78% of the active population. Brussels, the hub of several European institutions, numerous diplomatic representations and different interest groups, has essentially based its economy on services. Tourism is also an important sector of the economy, although it was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: in 2021, overnight stays increased by 45% on the previous year, but it was still 31% lower than the 2019 level (StatBel).

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 0.9 19.4 79.7
Value Added (in % of GDP) 0.7 20.7 68.3
Value Added (Annual % Change) -11.7 -0.1 4.2

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Euro (EUR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 0.940.890.850.890.88

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.



Foreign Trade

The Belgian economy is particularly open, with foreign trade representing 173% of GDP (World Bank, latest data available). In addition to being considered an export champion (10th in the world rank - WTO), Belgium plays an important role as a transit and distribution centre for other countries in the European Union. According to data from the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency, the majority of exports comprise chemical products (29.4%), mineral products (9.9%), machinery and equipment (9.7%), transport equipment (9.7%) and plastics (8.1%). The main imports are chemical products (25.9%), mineral products (14.3%), machinery and equipment (12.4%), transport equipment (10.4%) and base metals (7.4%).

Belgium role as a regional logistical hub makes its economy vulnerable to shifts in foreign demand, particularly with EU trading partners (around 65% of exports and imports). Germany remains the first customer (18.6%), followed by France (14.3%), the Netherlands (12.2%) and the U.S. (5.9%). The main suppliers are the Netherlands (18.7%), Germany (10.5%), France (9.1%), the United States (6.1%) and China (5.5% - data Belgian Foreign Trade Agency).

According to WTO data, in 2021 exports amounted to USD 545.2 billion, while imports reached USD 510.2 billion. Exports of services totalled USD 136.6 billion, while imports stood at USD 134.5 billion. The country’s trade balance is traditionally positive when including services: the trade surplus represented around 1.1% of GDP in 2021 (from 1.7 one year earlier - World Bank). According to the latest data from the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency, in the period Jan-Sep 2022 Belgium exported EUR 448.7 billion and imported EUR 453 billion (up by 34.6% and 44% year-on-year, respectively).

Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 455,188428,878397,957527,128623,686
Exports of Goods (million USD) 468,213446,910421,842548,869635,245
Imports of Services (million USD) 124,108124,500118,938136,152143,566
Exports of Services (million USD) 124,423123,667120,875137,647139,426

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 166.5164.2157.2172.6193.1
Trade Balance (million USD) -2,0044,1767,0375,014-18,064
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -1,6513,3448,8766,605-21,996
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 2.02.0-5.610.74.9
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.12.4-
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 83.481.877.785.897.7
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 83.182.479.486.895.3

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

International Economic Cooperation
Belgium is a member of the following international economic organisations: Benelux Economic Union, ICC, OECD, European Union, IMF, G-9, G-10, WTO, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Belgium click here. International organisation membership of Belgium is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Belgium can be consulted here.

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
Germany 20.2%
Netherlands 14.1%
France 12.4%
United States 6.8%
United Kingdom 5.1%
See More Countries 41.4%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
Netherlands 20.5%
Germany 12.5%
France 10.4%
United Kingdom 6.3%
United States 5.3%
See More Countries 44.9%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data



Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
King: Philippe of Belgium (since 21 August 2013);
Prime Minister: Alexander De Croo (since 1 October 2020)
Next Election Dates
Senate and Chamber of Representatives: 2024
Current Political Context
Belgium is a stable country even if cultural tensions between Wallonia (French-speaking) and Flanders (Flemish) have impregnated political life. The political system is a complicated one as there are different majorities at both regional and national levels. The decision-making process is highly controversial in Belgium as leaders of “Communities” can pass decrees and ordinances bearing the same juridical value as federal laws.

The government led by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, in office since October 2020, is supported by a seven-party coalition agreement (also known as the “Vivaldi” coalition): the liberals (Open Vld and MR), the socialists (Vooruit and PS), the greens (Groen and Ecolo) and the Christian democrats of CD&V.
Main Political Parties
Historically, parties are divided between French and Flemish groups, fuelling intercommunal tensions.

- Workers' Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA): far-left (ideologies: communism, marxism, marxism-leninism, socialism)
- Socialist Party (PS): centre-left, largest francophone party
- Flemish Socialists and Spirit alliance (SP.A): socialist, Flemish party
- Ecolo: green, francophone party
- Groen: green, Flemish party
- Christian, Democratic and Flemish Party (CD&V): centre-right
- Humanist Democratic Centre (Les Engagés) (cdH): centre, francophone party
- Flemish Liberal Democrats (Open VLD): centre-right, Flemish party
- Reform Movement (MR): centre-right, francophone party
- New-Flemish Alliance (N-VA): right-wing, pushes for Flemish independence from Belgium
- Flemish Interest
(Vlaams Belang): right-wing populist, pushing for Flemish independence
Executive Power
Chief of the state is the King, who plays a largely ceremonial and symbolic role. The King's primary political function is to designate a political leader (Prime Minister) to form a new government. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party (or the leader of the majority coalition) is usually appointed Prime Minister by the King and then approved by the parliament for a four-year term. The King, on recommendation of the Prime Minister, formally appoints the Council of Ministers. At the federal level, executive power is wielded by the Council of Ministers, with each minister heading a governmental department, with a maximum of 15 ministers. The Prime Minister chairs the Council.
Legislative Power
The Belgian Parliament is bicameral and consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives. The Chamber has 150 directly elected members by proportional representation vote. The Senate has 60 members; 50 members indirectly elected by the community and regional parliaments based on their election results, and 10 elected by the 50 other senators. All the members of the Parliament serve 5-year terms.


COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
The summary of the EU’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the website of the European Council.
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) in Belgium, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.