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macrohistory & world report

Kingdom of Belgium

Map of Belgium

Belgium (its capital Brussels) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of October 2014: "This modern, open, and private-enterprise-based economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the more heavily-populated region of Flanders in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium imports substantial quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium's trade is with other EU countries, and Belgium has benefited most from its proximity to Germany. In 2013 Belgian GDP grew by 0.1%, the unemployment rate increased to 8.8% from 7.6% the previous year, and the government reduced the budget deficit from a peak of 6% of GDP in 2009 to 3.2%. Despite the relative improvement in Belgium's budget deficit, public debt hovers around 100% of GDP, a factor that has contributed to investor perceptions that the country is increasingly vulnerable to spillover from the euro-zone crisis."

Economic growth rate
2012: 0.0%
2011: 2%

Unemployment rate
2012: 7.6%
2011: 7.7%
2010: 8.5%
2009: 8.3%
2008: 6.5%

Public debt as percentage of GDP
2011: 99.7 compared to 69.4 in 2011 for the United States

Import/export cash value ratio
2011: exports 99.9% of imports – slightly unfavorable balance
2010: exports 99.1% of imports – slighty unfavorable balance

Belgium has benefited from its central location, good ports, canals, railroads and highways.

Value Added Tax: 21%

For a single worker without children, in the year 2001, including contributions to Social Security, a Belgian earning an average wage paid 55.6% of his or her income for taxes, the highest such taxes in the world. Apparently, much of it has been invested in infrastructure, subsidizing industries and paying off government debt. Belgium is also generous in giving out aid – including to Palestinians. In 2003 it gave $74.25 in aid per Belgian. The United States that year gave 23.76 for each of its citizens. As for health care, Belgium spent only $2,137 per person, compared to $4,271 in the United States – money perhaps more efficiently spent than in the United States.

Health
Belgium's constitution guarantees "the right to health." Every Belgian patient pays only a small fee for care.  The rest if paid by government. The elderly receive subsidized cab rides to and from hospitals.

Health expenditures
2009: 11.8%, compared to 16.2% for the United States

Distribution of Wealth-- GINI index
Ranks 125th among 140 countries (higher rank number is more equal, lower ranking is less equal). More equal than Britain, which ranks 94th.

People

Living in an urban area
2010: 97%

Belgium has 1,230 persons per square kilometer of arable land, compared to around 31 persons for Kansas and 34 for Alabama, the latter a median state in the US for population density (from the US 2000 census).

Net migration rate
2011: More people arriving than leaving. A net gain of 1.22 migrants per 1,000 population.

Ethnicity and Religion
Belgium has French speakers and those who speak primarily a dialect of Dutch. It is 75% Roman Catholic. The French speakers are Walloons, descendants of the Franks and live primarily in the south and east of the country. The Dutch speakers are Flemings, who live primarily in the north and west. They are also descendants of the Franks. 

Geography

Borders on the North Sea between France and the Netherlands. Belgium has 30,370 square kilometers of land. Arable land is 28% of that.

Government

A federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

Recent History

Independence: 1830

A founding member and headquarters for NATO in 1949.

Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957, later to be called the European Union.

Gave independence to the Belgian Congo in 1960.

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.