• Belgium shines as the fourth most attractive economy in the world

Belgium shines as the fourth most attractive economy in the world

20 June 2016

The country owes its top position in BDO’s International Business Compass to its central location and financial policy

Belgium is ranked among the top most attractive investment countries to establish operations, according to the “International Business Compass” (IBC), a study by the BDO Consultancy firm into the innovative capacity of 174 countries. Our country owes its ranking to the excellent economic environment. In fact, we are ranked in fourth place worldwide, ahead of countries such as Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Belgium scores less well on the political and social-cultural level. As a result, Belgium ended up in thirteenth place in the IBC final ranking.

In the years to come, a country’s innovative capacity will play an increasingly important role when companies choose to establish their operations in a region. BDO studied the economic, political and social-cultural environment of countries. These three factors generate a breeding ground for innovation.

Belgium boasts thirteenth place worldwide if we consider these three parameters together. We moved up two places in BDO’s business compass, compared with two years ago, pulling ahead of Sweden and the United States in the overall ranking. Hong Kong has the highest score of all the countries worldwide, with Singapore on its heels. The Netherlands comes out as the number one European country in the top 3.

Fourth place

If we only take the first parameter into account, i.e. a country’s economic climate, then Belgium is actually the fourth most attractive country worldwide to establish operations today. Belgium’s score is considerably lower on the political (18th position) and social-cultural levels (22nd place).

Hans Wilmots, the CEO of BDO, explains why: “Belgium owes its solid fourth place on the economic level to two important aspects, namely its central location in Europe and its international stance on financial policy. There is still considerable margin for improvement on the political and social-cultural levels, despite our excellent 13th place in the overall ranking. Specific things that come to mind include public funding for research and development as well as innovative educational programmes and creative entrepreneurship”.

Currently the private, public and educational sectors in Belgium spend less than the Eurozone average on innovation, at about 2%, meaning we are still a long way off from the EU’s target percentage of 3%. Belgium also underperforms when it comes to patent applications: only 1.5% of all European patent applications are submitted by Belgium.

Margin for innovation

According to BDO, the extent to which a country offers opportunities for developing successful innovations will play an increasingly important role in a company’s selection of a location for operations. An innovative climate is vital for turning a country into a strong player, in addition to a favourable tax climate, good business infrastructure and a sufficient number of highly-skilled employees. The government plays an important role in this.

Hans Wilmots: “Schools must invest even more in innovative educational programmes, paying more attention to every kind of creative industry (including intellectual property) that has a connection with entrepreneurship. It is high time that we look at innovation from a different angle, beyond technology. Ultimately it is the combination of technology and science, intelligent business concepts and input from the creative industry that offers opportunities for tomorrow’s economy.”

The study

The 2016 International Business Compass is a study which was conducted in close cooperation with the Hamburg World Trade Institute (HWWI), and it analysed 174 countries. The 2016 edition focuses on a country’s innovation capacity. The general index offers a quick overview of the market opportunities in almost every country worldwide. Besides the study, you can also easily compare certain countries with each other on the website.


You can download the executive summary free of charge at: https://www.bdo-ibc.com/home/

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