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OECD Economic Surveys: Belgium 2009

image of OECD Economic Surveys: Belgium 2009

This 2009 edition of OECD's periodic survey of Belgium explores how Belgium should cope with the economic crisis and includes chapters on securing fiscal sustainability, improving fiscal federalism, reforming the tax system, and promoting competition.

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Promoting competition to strengthen economic growth

Prices for many goods and services are higher than in other countries, reflecting generally weak competitive pressures. The government has recently introduced several reforms to strengthen the competition policy framework. Nevertheless, to reap the full benefits of competitive markets, past reforms should be complemented with a number of further measures. The powers of the Competition Authority can still be enhanced. Its effective degree of independence, substantially improved in the recent reform, and its accountability should be monitored in order to assess whether further measures in this direction are needed. In the retail sector competition-restricting regulations still protect existing companies against new entry and inhibit the diffusion of new business models and technologies. The reform efforts in the network sectors remain patchy. In the energy and telecommunication sectors the main issues are the dominant positions of the incumbents and the failure of network sector regulators to introduce a level playing field in order to allow new entry and expansion of competitors. In other sectors, such as postal services and rail transport, major steps towards liberalisation are still to come. Overall, sectoral regulators will need more independence and powers in order to tackle uncompetitive behaviour of the incumbents, while better communication between the regulatory authorities is necessary. These steps should help to secure the necessary basis for bringing productivity growth in line with best performance.

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