Belgium

   

Executive Capacity

#30
Key Findings
With several significant governance weaknesses, Belgium scores relatively poorly (rank 30) in terms of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 point since 2014.

The prime minister’s office contains a policy-steering unit that evaluates and coordinates the most important proposals. Despite broad coalition governments, ministers must approve policies collegially. Ministers tend to adhere to government policy, while recent power shifts have facilitated coordination with the powerful regions.

The lack of a formal regulatory impact assessment mechanism sometimes produces biased and costly public-investment decisions. While consultation with outside stakeholders is common, the current coalition has actively sought to reduce union influence. Formal monitoring does take place, but is often inefficient, with questionable outsourcing practices producing a decline in public trust.

The current government has successfully pushed through numerous reforms, but often without achieving the desired effects. Several key areas, including immigration, anti-terror and tax policies, have produced publicly expressed discord within the government.

Strategic Capacity

#12

How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

10
 9

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
 5
 4
 3


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
 2
 1

In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
Strategic Planning
7
Each minister works closely with a team of collaborators in each ministerial cabinet. Each cabinet is usually large, with as many as 30 to 40 senior staff and experts. Meetings take place often, and the team designs policies in line both with the minister’s objectives and the government agreement. The minister and the advisory team are then responsible for drafting bill projects which are then submitted to the government in weekly meetings.

In terms of long-term planning, the knowledge accumulated by a minister’s collaborators can be lost at the end of a legislative period, as the ministerial team changes with the minister. Moreover, the frequency of staff rotation is generally high. In contrast, public administration is run by civil servants with longer tenures of office, but these groups do not generally take part in strategic ministerial decisions. Long-term planning (beyond a legislative term) is therefore made difficult. The main rationale for relying on the minister’s team instead of civil servants is that the former are the minister’s (and the party’s) close aides and tend to be more flexible in terms of working hours and availability for emergency situations.

The federal Planning Bureau (Bureau du Plan/Planbureau) does play a role in providing longer strategic-planning options, but in general it is the ministerial cabinets that are the main movers of legislative efforts.

How influential are non-governmental academic experts for government decisionmaking?

10
 9

In almost all cases, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


For major political projects, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 2
 1

The government does not consult with non-governmental academic experts, or existing consultations lack transparency entirely and/or are exclusively pro forma.
Scholarly Advice
6
Consultation with non-governmental academic experts depends on the subject matter; their actual influence on eventual decisions is quite limited most of the time, and certainly marginal when compared to the influence of experts who are attached full-time to ministerial cabinets (see below). The government and/or the parliament do consult full-time academic experts with independent views, but not in a systematic way (this is left to the initiative of parliamentary committees), and not necessarily to generate genuine scientific debate. However, in Belgium’s neocorporatist system, representatives of the social partners (employers’ organizations and trade unions) are systematically summoned for participation when a strategic decision is to be made on socioeconomic issues. In other politically sensitive areas (e.g., tax reform) academic and international expertise has had very limited influence.

One potential exception is the National Committee for Pensions, which is composed of three subcommittees. The first is composed of the traditional social partners. The second is made up of government experts from the various institutions involved in pension funding, an innovation that should enhance coordination in the typical Belgian web of institutions and shared responsibilities. The third subcommittee is composed only of academic experts. This subcommittee is the direct heir of the Commission for Pension Reforms set up by the previous government. However, a key reform aimed at ensuring long-term sustainability was blocked by the first subcommittee.

Citations:
Pension experts’ negative assessment: https://www.rtbf.be/info/article/detail?id=9447107

Minister’s reaction: http://www.lecho.be/economie_politique/belgique_federal/Les_reformes_diminuent_le_risque_de_pauvrete_des_pensionnes.9827735-3154.art?ckc=1&ts=1478889661

Interministerial Coordination

#9

Does the government office / prime minister’s office (GO / PMO) have the expertise to evaluate ministerial draft bills substantively?

10
 9

The GO / PMO has comprehensive sectoral policy expertise and provides regular, independent evaluations of draft bills for the cabinet / prime minister. These assessments are guided exclusively by the government’s strategic and budgetary priorities.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO has sectoral policy expertise and evaluates important draft bills.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO can rely on some sectoral policy expertise, but does not evaluate draft bills.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not have any sectoral policy expertise. Its role is limited to collecting, registering and circulating documents submitted for cabinet meetings.
GO Expertise
7
The Prime Minister’s Office contains a “strategic cell” that helps the prime minister evaluate and steer policy across all levels. Typically, this oversight function is shared with deputy prime ministers (one per coalition party, apart from the prime minister’s party) in a regular “core” meeting. Each of the advisers and experts in the cell specializes in one field. They assess only the most important issues, as the relatively small size of the team limits its ability to deal with all issues at hand. The fact that governments are always coalitions (comprised of at least four parties) also gives a central role to party advisers of the corresponding minister in the lawmaking process.

Can the government office / prime minister’s office return items envisaged for the cabinet meeting on the basis of policy considerations?

10
 9

The GO/PMO can return all/most items on policy grounds.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO can return some items on policy grounds.
 5
 4
 3


The GO/PMO can return items on technical, formal grounds only.
 2
 1

The GO/PMO has no authority to return items.
GO Gatekeeping
7
Before implementation, each government project is submitted to the ministers’ council, which meets weekly. The council is composed of a secretariat, which scrutinizes technically and politically each proposal before it is debated and prepares the ministers’ council agenda, and 14 line ministers and the prime minister, who debate each proposal. Decisions are made on the basis of political consensus, not a majority vote.

Either directly or through the council’s secretariat, the prime minister can block any item presented and either return it for redrafting or turn it down completely. This may be because a project does not fit the government agreement or conflicts with one of the coalition parties’ agenda, but can be for any other reason as well. All government members must by contrast defend all accepted projects collegially. In general, the detailed government agreement, informally referred to as “the bible,” provides an easy justification for the rejection of projects that might be politically difficult to handle; if a project does not directly relate to the governmental agreement, it is likely to be turned down either by the prime minister or through maneuvers by some other coalition parties in the “core.”

Citations:
Reference: http://www.premier.be/fr/conseil-des-ministres

To what extent do line ministries involve the government office/prime minister’s office in the preparation of policy proposals?

10
 9

There are inter-related capacities for coordination in the GO/PMO and line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.
 5
 4
 3


Consultation is rather formal and focuses on technical and drafting issues.
 2
 1

Consultation occurs only after proposals are fully drafted as laws.
Line Ministries
10
Before implementation, each government project is submitted to the ministers’ council, which meets weekly. The council is composed of a secretariat that scrutinizes each proposal before it is debated and prepares the ministers’ council agenda, and 14 line ministers and the prime minister, who debate each proposal. Decisions are made on the basis of political consensus, not of majority vote.

Either directly or through the council’s secretariat, the prime minister can block any item presented and either return it for redrafting or turn it down completely. This may be because a project does not fit the government agreement or conflicts with one of the coalition parties’ agenda, but can be for any other reason as well. All government members must by contrast defend accepted projects on a collegial basis.

Citations:
http://www.premier.be/fr/conseil-des-ministres

How effectively do ministerial or cabinet committees coordinate cabinet proposals?

10
 9

The large majority of cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated first by committees.
 8
 7
 6


Most cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated by committees, in particular proposals of political or strategic importance.
 5
 4
 3


There is little review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees.
 2
 1

There is no review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees. Or: There is no ministerial or cabinet committee.
Cabinet Committees
10
The Council of Ministers (conseil-des-ministres), which is one of the central components of the government, meets every week. Each minister is responsible for drafting a proposal, which gets submitted to the council. The council’s secretariat then checks whether the proposal can be debated, asking a number of questions: Is it complete and technically sound? Does it conflict with other past decisions? Is it contained in the governmental agreement? Proposals are debated by ministers only if they pass this first filter, a process that allows them to focus on the strategic aspects of the issue. However, the most important strategic considerations are mainly political.

Before reaching the Council of Ministers, projects are always discussed beforehand in formal or informal intercabinet meetings that include experts and senior officers from the relevant ministries. Most negotiation is performed at that stage and, if necessary, further fine-tuned in the “core” meeting in the case of particularly important or sensitive policy issues.

How effectively do ministry officials/civil servants coordinate policy proposals?

10
 9

Most policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 8
 7
 6


Many policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 5
 4
 3


There is some coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
 2
 1

There is no or hardly any coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
Ministerial Bureaucracy
5
While ministries are not significantly involved in preparing cabinet meetings, each minister has a large team of close collaborators and advisers (the ministerial cabinet) to prepare projects, which are first submitted to the minister, and then to the Council of Ministers. For some decisions, responsibilities are shared among several ministers, a situation that happens regularly. In this case, ministerial teams must coordinate their actions in intercabinet meetings before being able to submit a proposal to receive the approval of each minister. Proposals may be submitted to the ministers’ council only at this stage.

The bottom line is that top civil servants do not play a significant role – in most cases, they are at best informed of ongoing discussions and are simply asked to deliver data and information.

How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

10
 9

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Informal Coordination
9
Belgian governments have typically been broad coalition governments (the current government is more homogeneously right-wing, but still includes four parties), and mechanisms such as the council of ministers were established to enforce effective coordination. It is also important to note that party discipline is strong and party presidents are dominant figures able to enforce coordination both within and across government levels (subnational and national). In addition, some of the larger parties have well-organized study centers that provide extensive policy expertise.

The government agreement, signed at the government-formation stage, operates as an ex ante contract that limits possible deviation once the coalition operates. Once the government is formed, decisions are made collegially, and all government officials must defend the decisions made by the council of ministers. Thus, as long as governmental decisions remain within the boundaries of the government agreement, policy proposals are well coordinated.

Importantly, the last elections produced highly asymmetric coalitions at the federal and regional levels. The federal government must be composed of the same number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers. However, only one French-speaking party, the liberal-right MR, is part of that government. The coalition in Flanders is made up of all the Flemish parties in the federal government. In Wallonia, the coalition is composed of parties that are in the opposition at the federal level, including the Socialists (PS) and the Christian Democrats (CDH). The Brussels government is a six-party coalition with a partial overlap between the federal and regional coalitions. The capacity to coordinate policy between the federal and the regional governments is thus much more limited than it has been in recent times.

Moreover, the fact that the MR is the sole French-speaking party at the federal level, as well as a minority party in its electoral districts, puts it in an awkward position, limiting the capacity of the MR prime minister to dictate policy and behavior to coalition partners.

Evidence-based Instruments

#41

To what extent does the government assess the potential impacts of existing and prepared legal acts (regulatory impact assessments, RIA)?

10
 9

RIA are applied to all new regulations and to existing regulations which are characterized by complex impact paths. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 8
 7
 6


RIA are applied systematically to most new regulations. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 5
 4
 3


RIA are applied in some cases. There is no common RIA methodology guaranteeing common minimum standards.
 2
 1

RIA are not applied or do not exist.
RIA Application
2
Before making a decision, the government will typically seek the opinions of stakeholders in an attempt to prevent misguided policy action and to ensure some level of societal support. However, there are few formal RIA procedures, and when these do exist, they are generally treated only as a formality. Certainly, they do little to shape decisions, being invoked only at the end of the decision-making process, once decisions have already been reached. Authorities thus typically “fly blind,” with unexpected policy outcomes far from unusual.

For example, with regard to carbon emissions, energy experts recommended making improvements to house insulation in order to reduce energy demand. Instead, the various governments heavily subsidized solar panels, which were politically more appealing. In the absence of a proper RIA, the ex post measure of success was the rate of adoption (subsidy pick up) and volume of green-energy production. It took years for the various operators to admit that the cost overruns were unmanageable, and they ultimately had to freeze subsidies suddenly and partially renege on previous commitments.

Citations:
https://www.oecd.org/gov/regulatory-policy/Impact-assessment-in-Belgium-June-2015%20fr.pdf (see end)
https://soc.kuleuven.be/web/files/11/72/ICW_wp_2009.pdf
From https://www.law.kuleuven.be/home/algemeen/agenda20152016/doctoraatsverdediging-sven-sobrie :
“In our neighboring countries, it is not unusual for important legal reforms to be preceded by ex ante impact assessments. The OECD, too, has for years been stressing the importance of quantitative ‘Regulatory Impact Assessment’ (RIA). In comparison, the Belgian legislator flies blind, by creating and passing laws based on not much more than gut feeling, modifying them afterwards at best. This should change.”

Does the RIA process ensure participation, transparency and quality evaluation?

10
 9

RIA analyses consistently involve stakeholders by means of consultation or collaboration, results are transparently communicated to the public and assessments are effectively evaluated by an independent body on a regular basis.
 8
 7
 6


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to one of the three objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to two of the three objectives.
 2
 1

RIA analyses do not exist or the RIA process fails to achieve any of the three objectives of process quality.
Quality of RIA Process
1
There is no formal regulatory impact assessment process in Belgium. This has sometimes led to biased and costly public investment decisions.

Citations:
http://www.lesoir.be/1351413/article/actualite/regions/bruxelles/2016-10-25/un-organe-controle-independant-pour-decider-des-orientations-stib

Does the government conduct effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA?

10
 9

Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA; they draw on an exhaustive set of indicators (including social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability) and track impacts from the short- to long-term.
 8
 7
 6


Sustainability checks lack one of the three criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Sustainability checks lack two of the three criteria.
 2
 1

Sustainability checks do not exist or lack all three criteria.
Sustainability Check
1
There is no effective regulatory impact assessment process in Belgium.

Societal Consultation

#18

To what extent does the government consult with societal actors to support its policy?

10
 9

The government successfully motivates societal actors to support its policy.
 8
 7
 6


The government facilitates the acceptance of its policy among societal actors.
 5
 4
 3


The government consults with societal actors.
 2
 1

The government rarely consults with any societal actors.
Negotiating Public Support
6
Belgium’s socioeconomic model is one of consensual (neocorporatist) socioeconomic policymaking, whereby the government consults established stakeholders, in particular workers’ and employers’ representatives, in order to facilitate policy acceptance. Such consultations have also become institutionalized in other fields through the creation of specific consultative bodies, for instance the Federal Council for Sustainable Development, which includes representatives of environmental organizations.

Unionization rates are still very high in Belgium, with membership rates close to 50% (ranging up to 70% in some sectors) in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available. This is one of the highest such rates in Europe. However, recent technological change with regard to services platforms (Uber and its peers), the internationalization of the economy, trade agreements such as CETA, and efforts by the current (right-wing) government to reduce the power of workers’ unions (which are politically allied with left-wing parties) have progressively eroded unions’ influence, changing the government’s hands-off tradition of letting workers’ and employers’ unions negotiate wage arrangements. Arguably, some of this culture of consensus had previously stalled important but necessary reforms. Nevertheless, the current government’s strategy has come as a cultural shock.

Citations:
http://homepages.ulb.ac.be/~sodorcha/doc/RCTNM/2014-2015/Acteurs123_RCT_cours%202_10022015_donn%C3%A9_NB.pdf
http://plus.lesoir.be/120897/article/2017-10-24/la-concertation-sociale-des-rates-un-nouveau-modele-social-arrive)
http://plus.lesoir.be/111659/article/2017-08-30/la-cgsp-veut-ranimer-le-front-anti-michel
www.fgtb.be/-/pourquoi-la-greve-le-10-octobre-

Policy Communication

#33

To what extent does the government achieve coherent communication?

10
 9

The government effectively coordinates the communication of ministries; ministries closely align their communication with government strategy. Messages are factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 8
 7
 6


The government coordinates the communication of ministries. Contradictory statements are rare, but do occur. Messages are factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries are responsible for informing the public within their own particular areas of competence; their statements occasionally contradict each other. Messages are sometimes not factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 2
 1

Strategic communication planning does not exist; individual ministry statements regularly contradict each other. Messages are often not factually coherent with the government’s plans.
Coherent Communication
4
Maintaining coherent communication has proven increasingly difficult in the Michel I government, with each party seeking to make a display of its contribution to governing and political power to its voters, particularly as the new electoral cycle has approached (2018 local elections and 2019 regional, federal and European elections). For example, members of the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V), tasked with pleasing the party’s center-right and center-left wings alike, have quite different views on immigration, inequality and taxation than do members of the more liberal-right N-VA. Government communication after the terrorist attacks on Paris and Brussels was more confused than usual. In the aftermath of the attacks, radical immigration and anti-terror policies have proven to be major points of contention, as have the (in some cases botched) tax reforms and energy policies (in particular the still-disputed nuclear phase-out). On some occasions, the prime minister’s statements have even been publicly contradicted by other members of the government.

At the regional level, a series of scandals involving the abuse of public positions for private gain shattered the Walloon government coalition between the Socialists and the Christian Democrats. The Christian Democrats withdrew its confidence in the government, which provoked ill-managed negotiations to form a new government. During that phase, many pieces of information leaked to the public, with the government seeming losing any capacity to manage communication.

Implementation

#21

To what extent can the government achieve its own policy objectives?

10
 9

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
 8
 7
 6


The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
 2
 1

The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
Government Efficiency
6
On 9 October 2014, the newly instituted government published its government agreement, the document meant to guide its policy over the whole government term. Its first objective was to increase the employment rate from 67.5% to 73.2%. The country’s activity rate actually peaked a first time in the fourth quarter of 2014 at 68%, and has only recently recovered (Statbel data), in line with similar euro area countries. Employment rates remained flat over the last year, even though they are about 5 percentage points below the euro area average (and 12 points below Dutch or German levels). This gap is mainly due to comparatively low employment rates among those aged 55 to 64 – about 23 percentage points below the German level, and more generally very low even compared to other advanced EU economies. The government has restricted access to early retirement, which may have contributed to the slight uptick in the employment rate. Moreover, it is possible that a more significant impact has only been delayed. If this diagnosis is correct, the government may see more significant results from these reforms next year.

This government also committed to resolving past differentials in wage inflation that eroded the Belgian labor force’s global competitiveness. One reform has been to block “automatic wage indexation,” a legal provision that had aligned nominal wage growth with inflation rates. The measure’s passage prompted massive protests and strikes. Finally, the government is planning to cut corporate taxation rates. The jury is still out regarding the overall effectiveness of these reforms with regard to delivering higher investment and employment rates.

A second objective has been to reform the pension system. The short-term policy objective was to tighten early retirement rules. This reform passed despite substantial dissent by unions and opposition parties. In the longer term, the government has been trying to introduce additional reforms to reinforce the sustainability of the pension system, but that objective has only a low-to-medium probability of being attained by this government.

The government agreement’s third objective was to ensure the sustainability of the social-security system. In this case, the government has articulated a clear direction: It is cutting expenses, reimbursements and coverage across the board, at the risk of harming the lower-middle class. Another stated objective has been to increase GDP, but the government arguably has little control over economic growth.

The government’s fourth objective was to reform the tax system and enhance the government’s budget balance. Actual reforms have been too timid to produce a substantial gain in efficiency, but have been large enough to affect the budget deficit adversely.

The fifth objective was much broader and concerns energy, environment and science policy. Ministers in this area are comparatively weak within their respective parties, in some cases lacking experience in their portfolio areas, and achievements have accordingly been less clear cut.

The sixth objective was to improve “justice and security.” The main policy lever envisioned here is to improve the “efficiency” of the justice system – that is, to make it function with less funding. Progress has been limited thus far.

The other five stated objectives concern 7) asylum and migration policy, 8) public administration and enterprises, 9) a projection of Belgian “values and interests” in international relations, 10) improvements in mobility and road safety (a largely hopeless task given the complexity of Belgian institutions), and 11) transversal issues that include “equality and fairness,” “sustainable development” and “privacy and personal-information protection.” The government still seems quite determined to make progress on several of these issues, but only time will tell what exactly it will achieve.

Citations:
https://www.nbb.be/doc/dq/e/dq3/histo/iee1745.pdf
https://www.lecho.be/economie-politique/belgique-general/Syndicats-et-patrons-invites-a-mettre-un-coup-d-accelerateur-a-la-pension-a-points/9954736?highlight=pension
http://www.premier.be/sites/default/files/articles/Acc ord_de_Gouvernement_-_Regeerakkoord.pdf

http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exp loreeconomies/belgium#protecting-minority-investors

http://www.premier.be/fr/ d%C3%A9claration-du-gouvernement-3

To what extent does the organization of government provide incentives to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

10
 9

The organization of government successfully provides strong incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 8
 7
 6


The organization of government provides some incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 5
 4
 3


The organization of government provides weak incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 2
 1

The organization of government does not provide any incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
Ministerial Compliance
8
One must distinguish de jure powers from the government’s de facto powers to provide incentives to each minister. De jure, the prime minister has little power to exclude ministers from the government. The main architects of government positions are the party presidents who, at the government-formation stage, negotiate for control of the various portfolios and then nominate their people. Every minister’s primary incentive is thus to push his or her own party’s views, rather than the government’s potential view.

That said, this hierarchical structure is actually able to impose strong discipline on each minister when the incentives of party presidents are sufficiently aligned with those of the government.

How effectively does the government office/prime minister’s office monitor line ministry activities with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The GO / PMO effectively monitors the implementation activities of all line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of some line ministries.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not monitor the implementation activities of line ministries.
Monitoring Ministries
6
The hierarchical structures inside ministries is such that the line minister (or ministers, when a ministry’s set of responsibilities are shared by more than one government portfolio) controls the ministry at the political level. The ministry itself is presided over by a general administrator, whose nomination used to be purely political, but is now (at least partly) determined through a competitive exam.

The fact that the tenure of the general administrator and the minister are different opens the gate to potential tensions between the minister and the ministry. A concrete example is that of the minister for mobility, Jacqueline Galant (MR, francophone liberals, i.e., the party of the prime minister), who was eventually forced to step down. She had to handle particularly sensitive issues in the Belgian multiregional context, including security at the Brussels airport. The head of her administration was appointed before her term, and the two were not politically aligned. She instead systematically worked with external advisers over whom she had more political control and sometimes acted against the recommendations of her own administration.

How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies and executive agencies with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 8
 7
 6


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 2
 1

The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Monitoring Agencies, Bureaucracies
6
Belgium has relatively few agencies that are funded and controlled by the government, but are also formally independent of the government. Agencies of this type include the public radio and television stations, Child Focus, a foundation for missing or sexually exploited children, UNIA (the former Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism), some official job-placement agencies, and public social-service centers (Centres Publics d’Action Sociale (CPAS) / Openbare Centra voor Maatschappelijk Welzijn (OCMW)). Monitoring of these agencies takes place through several channels. Two are most relevant here. First, a government or party delegate will generally sit on the board of these agencies. Second, the agency must submit a report each year to the government or the ministry responsible for its activities. This monitoring mechanism is extremely effective, in part thanks to party discipline.

Despite effective formal monitoring mechanisms, two important issues are present in Belgium. First, effective monitoring is not synonymous with efficiency. Among other issues, the absence of impact assessment or efficiency monitoring allows public agencies to increase their costs without effective sanctions. Second, as noted in the Corruption Prevention section (D4.4), effective monitoring has been hampered by the outsourcing of many areas of government to ostensibly private entities that are in fact controlled by public-office holders.

The outcome has been a decline in public trust, reflected in lower performances for Belgium in the World Economic Forum’s ratings on issues such as “public trust in politicians,” “diversion of public funds,” “favoritism in decisions of government officials,” and “efficiency of government spending.”

Citations:
http://www.lecho.be/tablet/newspaper_economie_politique/Il_reste_des_centaines_d e_millions_d_euros_d_economies_a_faire_dans_les_services_publics.9776078-7320.ar t?utm_campaign=app&utm_medium=tablet&utm_source=IPAD

WEF: Schwab, Klaus and Sala-i-Marti, Xavier (2017). The Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018. World Economic Forum editor.

To what extent does the central government ensure that tasks delegated to subnational self-governments are adequately funded?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to fulfill all their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 8
 7
 6


The central government enables subnational governments to fulfill most of their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 5
 4
 3


The central government sometimes and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational governments.
 2
 1

The central government often and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational self-governments.
Task Funding
4
Several core responsibilities of the Belgian central government have been delegated to regional or sub-regional levels over the recent decades: to the three regions (Flanders, the Brussels region and Wallonia), to the linguistic communities (Flemish, French and German), and to the municipalities (communes/gemeenten; a city may be subdivided into several communes). Due to recurrent political stalemates between the Flemings and Francophones, the Brussels region has been chronically underfunded. Municipalities in rich areas are typically funded sufficiently, but this is often not the case in poorer areas. Reductions in unemployment benefits have also had spillover effects on these municipalities, since they are financially responsible for minimum income support for the poor.

Likewise, the government agreement also implies serious cuts in financial transfers from Flanders to Wallonia in the coming years. But since Wallonia is a post-industrial region with unemployment levels twice as high as those in Flanders, it is difficult to see Wallonia not continuing to suffer from chronic underfunding.

The government agreement also envisioned a decentralization of taxation. However, the main sources of state financing (direct taxes and VAT) will remain centrally controlled and collected, with the funds redistributed according to pre-agreed sharing rules. Redistribution issues remain a point of conflict between the main regions and communities, with the recent financial crises having heightened tensions.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments may use their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to make full use of their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 8
 7
 6


Central government policies inadvertently limit the subnational self-governments’ scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 5
 4
 3


The central government formally respects the constitutional autonomy of subnational self-governments, but de facto narrows their scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 2
 1

The central government deliberately precludes subnational self-governments from making use of their constitutionally provided implementation autonomy.
Constitutional Discretion
10
The federal state has no formal authority over regions and communities, because there is no hierarchy between the federal and regional/community levels. When compared with other federal systems, this creates major complications. For instance, any single region has the ability to block an international treaty, since it has exactly the same prerogatives as the federal state. This occurred in September and October of 2016, when the Walloon region singlehandedly blocked the signing of a major treaty between the EU and Canada (CETA). The treaty was eventually signed on 30 October, after weeks of pressure and tense negotiations.

On some policy dimensions (e.g., spatial planning, transport, education, culture, applied research, local authorities, etc.), the regions and communities are actually becoming more powerful than the federal government. The tensions between the country’s linguistic communities, as well as between its geographically defined regions (both the communities and regions have their own political institutions and administrations), have served to reinforce this trend.

Citations:
http://www.lesoir.be/1353096/article/economie/2016-10-27/ceta-belgique-trouve-un-accord

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services?

10
 9

Central government effectively ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 8
 7
 6


Central government largely ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 5
 4
 3


Central government ensures that subnational self-governments realize national minimum standards of public services.
 2
 1

Central government does not ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
National Standards
5
Formally, the national (federal) government has no authority over regional governments and administrations, but it can impose some standards and policies. Environmental policies, for instance, have been largely regionalized, but environmental standards and norms are set at the federal level. As a result, environmental-policy coordination has been deadlocked since 2012. In addition, subnational and local executives have to abide by budgetary constraints set by the central government. Responsibilities for several policy levers are shared by different government levels, in which case the central government has partial authority over regional governments’ courses of action.

In general, the central government does not have the ability to enforce or control more detailed standards with regard to issues such as performance figures. The government can only try to maintain influence through more general (legal or budgetary) levers. Another informal mechanism is party discipline; whenever the same parties are in power at the national and subnational levels, coordination is facilitated. The change of government in Wallonia, which is now largely controlled by the MR, a right-wing party also in the national government, has aligned majorities and oppositions in all regions except Brussels.

Adaptability

#18

To what extent does the government respond to international and supranational developments by adapting domestic government structures?

10
 9

The government has appropriately and effectively adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 8
 7
 6


In many cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational.
 2
 1

The government has not adapted domestic government structures no matter how useful adaptation might be.
Domestic Adaptability
6
Belgium is one of the founding states of the European Union and is an active member of many international agreements. In some instances, Belgium has even played a leading role in international agreements (such as banning the production of land mines).

However, this apparent enthusiasm for international and supranational coordination comes with significant caveats, as Belgium is today regularly criticized for not fully complying with rules agreed upon at the European Union, United Nations or NATO. For instance, critics have taken aim at Belgium’s failures to respect the Geneva Convention, its failure to ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and its slower-than-average progress in abiding by EU environmental norms. This can again be partially explained by the persistent political tension between the country’s Dutch- and French-speaking camps, its complex and still-evolving institutional structure, and the fact that, due to decentralization, all governmental entities maintain (and tend to further develop) their own international relations in the area of their (sometimes overlapping) competences.

Citations:
http://www2.derand.be/livingintranslation/en/Minorities_Convention.php

https://www.coe.int/en/web/minorities/fcnm-factsheet

To what extent is the government able to collaborate effectively in international efforts to foster global public goods?

10
 9

The government can take a leading role in shaping and implementing collective efforts to provide global public goods. It is able to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
 8
 7
 6


The government is largely able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Existing processes enabling the government to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress are, for the most part, effective.
 5
 4
 3


The government is partially able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Processes designed to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress show deficiencies.
 2
 1

The government does not have sufficient institutional capacities to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. It does not have effective processes to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
International Coordination
7
Belgium hosts various supranational institutions, including the majority of the offices of the European Union. The country has always displayed enthusiasm toward joint-reform initiatives. This can be illustrated by the large number of Belgian politicians involved in the highest levels of such organizations (e.g., Herman Van Rompuy, a former president of the European Council; Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal group in the European Parliament). Moreover, the country’s small size makes it heavily dependent on international coordination. It therefore supports international reform efforts in areas such as tax systems, carbon-dioxide regulation, and as of 2015, on the European equivalent of the American Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. However, with regard to implementation, Belgium does not always fulfill its commitments.

Organizational Reform

#41

To what extent do actors within the government monitor whether institutional arrangements of governing are appropriate?

10
 9

The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly and effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly.
 5
 4
 3


The institutional arrangements of governing are selectively and sporadically monitored.
 2
 1

There is no monitoring.
Self-monitoring
3
In 1992, Belgium became a federal state with one central government, three regional governments (Flanders, Brussels, Wallonia), three communities (Dutch-, French- and German-speaking, each with a parliament and a government), 10 provinces, and 589 municipalities (following a merger in 1975). The federal and regional/community governments have many overlapping competences.

As a consequence, Belgian institutions are far from efficient. The responsibility split between municipalities and regions has not been reoptimized appropriately, particularly in Brussels. Many decisions require interministerial coordination, which makes Belgium almost as complex as Europe. Very frequently, no rational solution emerges, because any such solution either means more devolution to federal entities, which is perceived by “federalists” as a step toward pure separatism, or recentralization of some competences within the central state, which is perceived by “regionalists” as a step backward toward yesterday’s centralized structures.

One efficient solution would be to devolve competences that do not require intense coordination fully to the regions, while centralizing others that require intense coordination. There should also be a clear hierarchical structure between the central state and its federal entities. In contrast, in the current structure, each entity is so independent that the central government cannot impose needed reforms to meet Belgium’s international commitments.

However, the issue is less problematic when only one entity is involved in a reform effort, and monitoring across regions does exist. The good practices of a region (or of other countries) can thus inspire others (the efficiency of institutional arrangements between regional governments is easily comparable, for example).

To what extent does the government improve its strategic capacity by changing the institutional arrangements of governing?

10
 9

The government improves its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements.
 8
 7
 6


The government improves its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 5
 4
 3


The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 2
 1

The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
Institutional Reform
3
Most reforms are the consequence of bargaining between power levels, with successive political tensions between the federal government, Flanders and Wallonia Eventually, protracted negotiations typically end up with some type of compromise that rarely improves overall efficiency.

The main case in point is the Brussels capital region (which is restricted to about one-fourth the actual Brussels agglomeration in terms of area, and one-half in terms of population). Its restricted boundaries result in numerous overlapping jurisdictions with Flanders and Wallonia. Moreover, within the Brussels region, competences are split between the 19 communes and the region. This creates another layer of overlap and gridlock, in particular for city planning. The creation of a pedestrian zone in the city center, without sufficient coordination with the other communes or the region, created major traffic jams. Questions regarding the Brussels airport or the highway “ring” around Brussels are managed by Flanders. The building of a rapid train service toward the south (to provide alternative transportation to Walloon commuters) is largely managed by Wallonia, which has priorities beyond reducing traffic in Brussels.

However, as the general process has trended toward decentralization, local efforts have had positive effects and can be seen as an improvement in strategic capacity.
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