DOI: 10.5553/RP/048647002000042001003

Res PublicaAccess_open


Van devaluatie tot euro

Het economische en meer bepaald het monetaire beleid van België 1980-2000

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Alfons Verplaetse, "Van devaluatie tot euro", Res Publica, 1, (2000):3-21

    This article on the evolution of economic and monetary policy in Belgium, which turned the "sick man of Europe" into one of the stronger European economies and allowed it to enter into EMU, stresses the role of the monetary authorities as a stabilising force in Belgium. It gives a detailed analysis of how these changes have allowed Belgium to regain the confidence of both monetary authorities and international investors after the devaluation of 1982. The policy responses to the oil shock at the beginning of the seventies broke with the policy mix which had until then been practised. Both the wage formation process andf iscal policy clearly spiralled out of control, the chiefresult of which was a drastic loss in international competitiveness. As a consequence, the current account showed a large deficit, the traditional level at which public deficit had stood rose dramatically, unemployment exploded and the financial structure of most corporations became fragile. A drastic realignment of economic policy started with the devaluation of the Belgian franc in 1982. This devaluation was accompanied by a series of measures aimed at preventing the inflationary pressures from triggering further devaluations, and hence at restoring credibility. These measures included restrictive fiscal policies (tax increases and cuts inpublic spending) and real wage cuts. By 1987 this recovery policy had successfully restored Belgian competitiveness, reduced the government deficit and restored the balance ofpayments equilibrium. Although public policies became less restrictive during the period 1988-1993, the central bank continued to gain international credibility. Significant stepsin this process were the abolition of the dual exchange rate system, the decision to peg the Belgian franc to the most stable currency in the ERM (i.e. the German mark) and the reform of the money markets in Belgium. The latter in particular helped to increase the central bank's independence, since this reform implied total control by the central bank over short term interest rates, it reduced significantly the automatic credit lines of the fiscal authorities with the central bank and it stipulated that revaluations of gold reserves should no langer be used to finance government budget deficits. By 1992 international credibility had been restored to such a degree that the Belgian franc became a strong currency during the 1992 crisis, obliging the central bank to come to the rescue of the weaker currencies under attack in September 1992 with a speculative inflow of capital of about 200 billion BEF. However this restored credibility continued to be fragile, as became evident during the 1993 exchange rate crisis when the Belgian franc was vigorously attacked by international speculation. The insufficient alignment of public and monetary policies proved to be at the heart of the financial problems of the 1993 crises. The Belgian government relaunched its policies of budgetary restriction and wage moderation, brought together in what was called the 'Global Plan'. This realignment of public policies to monetary policy swiftly restored the credibility of the Belgian franc, so that as early as January 1994 the Belgian franc converged to its central parity with an interest differential vis-à-vis the German mark of only about 2 %. This differential declined progressively. Indeed the global plan restored the confidence of the investors in Belgian economic policy. Financial markets now fully believed in the entry of Belgium into EMU and from then on no major difficulties were to arise.

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