Belgium

   

Executive Capacity

#26
Key Findings
With several significant governance weaknesses, Belgium falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 26) in terms of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 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. Coordination between the federal and powerful regional governments has been difficult.

Regulatory impact assessments are generally little more than formalities, but some regulators are taking them increasingly seriously. Ex post evaluation often actively seeks to justify policies. While consultation with outside stakeholders is common, the current coalition has actively sought to reduce union influence. The neo-corporatist model sometimes results in regulation biased by the social partners.

The current government has successfully pushed through numerous reforms, but often without achieving the desired effects. Longstanding promises to phase out nuclear power remain unfulfilled. Several key areas, including immigration, anti-terror and tax policies, have produced publicly expressed discord within the government.

Strategic Capacity

#15

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.

Does the government regularly take into account advice from non-governmental experts during decision-making?

10
 9

In almost all cases, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


For major political projects, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 2
 1

The government does not consult with non-governmental experts, or existing consultations lack transparency entirely and/or are exclusively pro forma.
Expert 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 neo-corporatist 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.

There are still some potential exceptions, such as 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. Another exception is the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Center.

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

https://kce.fgov.be/en/about-us/what-is-the-kce

Interministerial Coordination

#6

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

10
 9

The GO / PMO provides regular, independent evaluations of draft bills for the cabinet / prime minister. These assessments are guided exclusively by the government’s priorities.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO evaluates most draft bills according to the government’s priorities.
 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.

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 between 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 vast 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/Raad van ministers), 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 cabinet committee 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 cabinet committee 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 2014 – 2019 coalition was initially composed of parties that were in opposition at the federal level, including the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, PS) and a christian democratic party (Centre démocrate humaniste, cdH) – the socialists were ousted in 2017 and replaced by the liberal Reformist Movement (Mouvement Réformateur, MR). The Brussels government is a six-party coalition with a partial overlap between the federal and regional coalitions. Currently, the capacity to coordinate policy between the federal and the regional governments is thus very limited.

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

How extensively and effectively are digital technologies used to support interministerial coordination (in policy development and monitoring)?

10
 9

The government uses digital technologies extensively and effectively to support interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


The government uses digital technologies in most cases and somewhat effectively to support interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


The government uses digital technologies to a lesser degree and with limited effects to support interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

The government makes no substantial use of digital technologies to support interministerial coordination.
Digitalization for Interministerial C.
7
The Federal Public Service for Information & Communication Technology (FEDICT) is responsible for defining and implementing an e-governance strategy. However, this agency focuses primarily on government-to-citizen (G2C) and government-to-business (G2B) communication, while government-to-government (G2G) interactions seem to be largely overlooked. Furthermore, the federal structure of the state does not help the sharing common IT programs or platforms, as every government level is responsible for its own digital infrastructure.
However, although there is still much to improve, Belgium fares comparatively well internationally. The U.N. E-Government Survey 2016 ranked Belgium 19 out of 193 U.N. member countries in its list of e-government leaders.

Citations:
https://d9db56472fd41226d193-1e5e0d4b7948acaf6080b0dce0b35ed5.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/events/forum/2004/panel_handouts/fedict.pdf
https://digitaldashboard.belgium.be/fr
https://publicadministration.un.org/egovkb/en-us/reports/un-e-government-survey-2016
http://workspace.unpan.org/sites/Internet/Documents/UNPAN97453.pdf (page 111)

Evidence-based Instruments

#40

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
3
There are few formal RIA procedures, and when these do exist, they are generally treated only as a formality, 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.

The situation appears to have been improved following some key regulatory decisions. In 2018, the telecommunication regulator proceeded with a 97-page impact evaluation into the possibility of allowing for a fourth mobile phone operator (https://www.ibpt.be/public/files/fr/22539/Etude%20d%27impact%20march%C3%A9%20mobile%20FR_120718.pdf). The regulator’s report summarized an extensive body of literature and analyzed a significant set of case studies to examine the pros and cons of this decision – a clear improvement over past performance.

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.”

https://www.ibpt.be/public/files/fr/22539/Etude%20d%27impact%20march%C3%A9%20mobile%20FR_120718.pdf

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
2
Regulatory impact assessments are compulsory, but seem to be treated as a formality for many important government decisions. There are however interesting and valuable exceptions, such as for the possibility of adding a fourth mobile phone operator in Belgium.

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
2
Regulatory impact assessments are compulsory, but seem to be treated as a formality for many important government decisions. There are however interesting and valuable exceptions, such as for the possibility of adding a fourth mobile phone operator in Belgium.

To what extent do government ministries regularly evaluate the effectiveness and/or efficiency of public policies and use results of evaluations for the revision of existing policies or development of new policies?

10
 9

Ex post evaluations are carried out for all significant policies and are generally used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 8
 7
 6


Ex post evaluations are carried out for most significant policies and are used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 5
 4
 3


Ex post evaluations are rarely carried out for significant policies and are rarely used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 2
 1

Ex post evaluations are generally not carried out and do not play any relevant role for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
Quality of Ex Post Evaluation
2
The typical strategy is to pick the data that justify the decisions that have been made. For instance, to justify the usefulness of a subsidy, the government may argue that a large number of people demanded the subsidy, not whether the subsidy managed to achieve its political objective. This approach has led to counterproductive decisions in the areas of, for example, education, energy conservation, subsidies for solar panels and immigration. There may be some scattered ex-post evaluations undertaken on the initiative of individual line ministries, but these evaluations have no direct impact on the revision of existing policies since they are not seriously considered by ministerial cabinets, where all strategic policy choices are initiated and arbitrated.

Societal Consultation

#20

Does the government consult with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner?

10
 9

The government always consults with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner.
 8
 7
 6


The government in most cases consults with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner.
 5
 4
 3


The government does consult with societal actors, but mostly in an unfair and clientelistic manner.
 2
 1

The government rarely consults with any societal actors.
Public Consultation
6
Belgium’s socioeconomic model is one of consensual (neo-corporatist) 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 55% 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 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:
https://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-
https://references.lesoir.be/article/pourquoi-le-syndicalisme-progresse-t-il-en-belgique/

Unionization rates: https://stats.oecd.org/viewhtml.aspx?datasetcode=TUD&lang=fr

Policy Communication

#32

To what extent does the government achieve coherent communication?

10
 9

Ministries are highly successful in aligning their communication with government strategy.
 8
 7
 6


Ministries most of the time are highly successful in aligning their communication with government strategy.
 5
 4
 3


Ministries occasionally issue public statements that contradict the public communication of other ministries or the government strategy.
 2
 1

Strategic communication planning does not exist; individual ministry statements regularly contradict each other. Messages are often not factually consistent with the government’s strategy.
Coherent Communication
4
Maintaining coherent communication has proven difficult for the Michel I government, with each party seeking to make a display of its 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. 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

#20

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 Effectiveness
5
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%. In 2018, employment rates remained flat, even though they are about 5 percentage points below the euro zone 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. The government has restricted access to early retirement, which may have contributed to the slight uptick in the employment rate.

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 reduce headline corporate tax rates. The jury is still out regarding the overall effectiveness of these reforms.

A second objective has been to reform the pension system. The short-term policy objective was to tighten early retirement rules. For 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.

The fifth objective was much broader and concerns energy, environment and science policy. Ministers in this area are comparatively weak within their respective parties and achievements have been dismal.

Although Belgium was one of the first EU member states to announce that it was phasing-out nuclear power in 2003, it is still heavily reliant on nuclear energy and fossil fuels (44.5% and 41.5% respectively, with solar and wind power contributing some 11%). Previous governments were forced to extend the operations of aging nuclear plants due to potential energy supply shortages and the current government has been no exception to this scenario. Worse, the current government has allowed power companies to let the situation degrade substantially. (We suspect power companies are letting nuclear facilities degrade as a tool to negotiate additional maintenance subsidies). Indeed, it became apparent in October 2018 that most nuclear plants would be unable to operate for the majority of the 2018/19 winter.

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

https://lenergeek.com/2018/08/09/belgique-sortie-nucleaire/
https://lenergeek.com/2018/11/12/belgique-penurie-electricite-nucleaire/
https://plus.lesoir.be/181891/article/2018-10-02/la-penurie-delectricite-en-cinq-questions
https://www.premier.be/fr/%C2%AB-je-ne-laisserai-personne-torpiller-le-pacte-%C3%A9nerg%C3%A9tique-le-travail-continue%C2%BB

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

10
 9

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


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


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

The organization of government does not provide any mechanisms 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.

How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies/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 (against various forms of discrimination), and local 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. Second, the agency must submit a yearly report to the government. This monitoring mechanism is extremely effective, in part thanks to party discipline.

However, 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 subregional 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 European U 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 and local authorities), 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.

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.

To what extent is government enforcing regulations in an effective and unbiased way, also against vested interests?

10
 9

Government agencies enforce regulations effectively and without bias.
 8
 7
 6


Government agencies, for the most part, enforce regulations effectively and without bias.
 5
 4
 3


Government agencies enforce regulations, but ineffectively and with bias.
 2
 1

Government agencies enforce regulations ineffectively, inconsistently and with bias.
Regulatory Enforcement
8
Belgium’s system of proportional representation easily falls prey to lobbying. Belgium is actually recognized as a neo-corporatist system. When a strategic decision involves key socioeconomic issues, representatives of the social partners (i.e., the powerful and well-structured employers’ organizations, and trade unions) systematically negotiate a bilateral agreement, which is then passed to the executive.

For this reason, the design of regulations may tend to be biased and at times ineffective, as it is based on a temporary and uneasy compromise between the social partners.

When it comes to the enforcement of regulations that have been agreed upon and then confirmed by the executive, however, public administration and government agencies tend to be fair and effective.

Adaptability

#17

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 developments.
 2
 1

The government has not adapted domestic government structures, no matter how beneficial 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, 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 slower-than-average progress in abiding by EU environmental norms.

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 with 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

#40

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
4
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 re-centralization of some competences within the central state, which is perceived by “regionalists” as a step backward toward yesterday’s centralized structures.

However, recently, members of several main political parties have argued for a more dispassionate and objective discussion regarding the allocation of competences to central or regional governments, putting efficiency gains above prejudice. Most of these public statements have argued in favor of re-centralizing some competences. While this is not a new position for French-speaking politicians, the novelty is that there are now major Flemish politicians (including the deputy prime minister, Alexander de Croo) who have publicly stated that efficiency should be a key criteria for such politically loaded decisions. Alexander de Croo declared that if four years ago no one dared talk about re-centralization, today the tables have turned. Nonetheless such changes will take time.

Citations:
https://www.levif.be/actualite/belgique/le-nouveau-mouvement-jump-for-brussels-ou-le-mirage-de-la-politique-hors-des-partis/article-opinion-1053207.html
https://plus.lesoir.be/189224/article/2018-11-10/un-nouveau-parti-bruxelles-jump-ni-de-gauche-ni-de-droite
http://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20180728_03637555
http://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20180806_03650215
https://plus.lesoir.be/130823/article/2017-12-23/francois-bellot-et-alexander-de-croo-pour-une-refederalisation-de-la-mobilite
https://ecolo.be/nos-idees/democratie-et-gouvernance/institutionnel/priorite-1-garantir-un-etat-federal-solidaire-dans-un-federalisme-modernise/

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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