In 2021, the Belgian consolidated general government gross debt amounted to 109.2% of gross domestic product. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must decrease. The projections from the Comité d’étude sur le vieillissement (available in April 2023) indicate that this objective will not be reached. The Belgian consolidated general government gross debt is therefore developing unfavourably.
Public debt - Belgium - trend assessment
percentage of gross domestic product
|projection (April 2023)||--||--||--||--||--||109.5||119.0|
National Bank of Belgium; Eurostat (2022), General government gross debt [sdg_17_40], https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 31/10/2022); Comité d´étude sur le vieillissement (2022), Rapport annuel 2022.
Public debt - Belgium and international comparison
percentage of gross domestic product
|//: Average Growth Rates|
National Bank of Belgium; Eurostat (2022), General government gross debt [sdg_17_40], https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 31/10/2022).
Definition: public debt is the total consolidated gross debt of general government in per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Data for Belgium are collected by the National Accounts Institute. To enable a comparison with the other EU Member States, the data are provided by Eurostat.
Goal: there is no goal for public debt by 2030. However, this indicator must decrease to a sustainable level and converge to a level defined by the European Union (60%).
The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 17.13: “Enhance global macroeconomic stability, including through policy coordination and policy coherence”.
The Federal Long-Term Strategic Vision for Sustainable Development contains objective 44: “The indebtedness arising from both social and environmental and economic phenomena will remain on a sustainable footing and not put a burden on future generations” (Belgian Official Gazette, 08/10/2013).
The economic theory does not suggest an optimal level of public debt. The concept of ‘sustainability of public finances’ is nonetheless used and defined as “long-term financial stability of public finances (in terms of deficits and debt rate) (...) without imposing rifts or a substantial discontinuity in the conduct of fiscal policy (neutrality across time) and pursuing intergenerational neutrality.” (High Council of Finance, 2007) Sustainable public debt corresponds to a level that secures the sustainability of public finances. However, this level cannot be quantified. In the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union (Official Journal of the European Union, 29/07/1992), the European Union has set a target of 60% of public debt, expressed in per cent of a Member State’s GDP. This goal is not so much a target that has to be reached within a specific time period, but a reference level that first and foremost aims to harmonise the Member States’ public debt. Therefore, this indicator must decrease.
International comparison: in comparison to the EU27 average, the average public debt (in per cent of GDP) in Europa is far below that of Belgium: respectively 87.9% and 109.2% in 2021. This difference is observed over the whole analysed period. When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with the poorest performance in 2021. In that year, Estonia ranked first with 17.6% and Greece last with 194.5%.
UN indicator: the selected indicator does not correspond to any monitoring indicator for the SDGs but is related to target 17.13. By reducing the public (and private) debt, global macroeconomic stability can be increased and a sustainable economy for future generations can be developed.
SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals: United Nations (2015), Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, document A/RES/70/1.
Indicators: United Nations (2017), Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, document A/RES/71/313.
UN Sustainable Development: https://sdgs.un.org/ (consulted on 18/01/2023).
High Council of Finance (2007), Rapport 2007, Section "Besoins de financement des Pouvoirs publics"; https://www.conseilsuperieurdesfinances.be/sites/default/files/public/publications/csf_fin_2007_03.pdf (consulted on 24/09/2020).