Belgian society is well known for its social diversity. This diversity can have several advantages if handled properly, but can lead to several quarrels and confrontations when it is not well managed by the country’s government. Belgium’s situation during the XX th century would probably correspond to the latter. The linguistic and ideological differences have resulted in the establishment of this system.
We have to remember that Belgium is divided into two main areas: Wallonia and Flanders. Even though they both have common roots and belong to the same country, they have many differences (political, cultural, linguistic, economic…), which have provoked several crisis. (for further information: 1.1. LINGUISTIC CONFLICT: COMPETENCES)
According to the book ‘Economic Growth in Europe Since 1945‘ a consociational democracy is a ‘political system replete with mechanisms for resolving conflicts and protecting minorities in a deeply divided society.’
As a result of this, the political system was very fragmented, but remained stable. These social differences have often led to the absence of a political party with the voting majority. That explains the great amount of coalition governments that have existed in Belgian history.
In order to maintain peace and avoid disputes, the Government has, over the years, increased public spending until it has surpassed its budget constraint, leading to a maintained situation of public deficit throughout the majority of the XX th century.
This situation has been aggravated by political irregularities. The Belgian government was very unstable throughout the century, with different political parties ruling over the country. To this change of political parties, we have to add the difficulty of the legislative power to approve laws.
All of these factors have damaged Belgian economy through the intensification of the public deficit. This situation had to be corrected because public deficit can decelerate economic growth.
In this graph we can see through three different sources that the public debt of Belgium started an upward trend during the 80’s decade, which did not stop until the beginning of the 90’s decade, after which, it started a downward trend until 2005. Afterwards, probably due to the Crisis of 2008, it has continued to increase.
- Jansson, B. (2016, December 27). What is Wallonia? Belgium’s Unusual Federal System. Retrieved from Political Geography Now: https://www.polgeonow.com/2016/12/what-is-wallonia-in-belgium.html
- Reiskoffer, D. (2006, January 26). Evolution of the Belgian GDP. Retrieved from Economy of Belgium: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Belgium
- Centre for Economic Policy Research. (1996). Economic Growth in Europe Since 1945. Cambridge; New York; Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.