THE ECONOMY / BUSINESS
Federal government recovery plan
On 11 December 2008 the federal government – with Yves
Leterme as Prime Minister still - decided to work out a
recovery plan to get the economy back on track.
The government of Herman Van Rompuy, the new Prime Inauguration of the Microsoft
Minister, agreed to implement the recovery plan without Innovation Centre in Mons
delay. In the meantime a number of measures have been
approved, including some to stimulate energy efficiency on 4 March 2009
and others to give business new impetus.
For companies and organisations that employ researchers, On 4 March 2009, the Microsoft Innovation Centre
for example, we note an increase in withholding tax (MIC) opened its doors in the parc technologique
exemption from 65% to 75% as of 1 January 2009. There Initialis in Mons, in the province of Hainaut. MIC is a
will also be a general increase in withholding tax exemption public-private partnership between Microsoft and the
to 0.75% on 1 June 2009 and 1% from 1 January 2010. Walloon Region. Its objective is to stimulate
In addition, there will be a monthly tax credit refund for entrepreneurship and help start-ups by offering
sectors which, due to the nature of their activities, build up operational, financial and technological support. It
VAT credits (mainly construction and export). will be focussed particularly on supporting start-ups
in the domain of e-health with the development of
technological solutions for the health sector. MIC’s
goal is to contribute to the establishment of 5 to 10
new companies a year and 200 to 250 new jobs.
Apart from that it will also support 50 research and
http://www.belgium.be/fr/binaries/planderelance_tcm116-29600.pdf development projects annually and deliver 500
Wygwam and Eonix, two small and medium-sized
SMEs specialised in new health and welfare
technologies plan to anchor themselves in the new
Voo (communication via cable) and Hewlett-Packard
(HP) Benelux have recently associated themselves
with the project, too. HP will supply hardware (PCs,
servers, printers and storage devices) and Voo will
Belgium had a good 21,000 fewer eventually offer applications for internet television for
unemployed in 2008 than in 2007 the wider public.
At the end of December 2008 there were 386,253 MIC will move into a building of approximately 550
unemployed jobseekers receiving benefits from Belgium’s m2 in parc Initialis in Mons, where it will form part of
NEO (National Employment Office). That is 21,221 fewer a “Digital Innovation Valley” with Virtualis and
than at the end of December 2007. Technocité.
The number of unemployed jobseekers under the age of 25
receiving benefits from the NEO came to 55,033 (or 2,315
fewer than the previous year).
Finally, at the end of December 2008 there were 194,006
unemployed jobseekers who had been receiving benefits
from the NEO for two years or longer. This is a drop of
23,347 compared to the previous year.
There was a reduction in each category in each of the
three Regions - the Flemish Region, the Walloon Region
and the Brussels Capital Region.
Chinese Sinomax group invests in Wallonia: company to build firework factory in Vresse‐sur‐Semois
The Minister-President of the Walloon Region, Mr. Rudy Demotte,
has announced a new Chinese investment in Wallonia. The Chinese
group, Sinomax, is to build a European production centre for
fireworks in Vresse-sur-Semois in the province of Luxembourg.
Specialised in the import and sale of fireworks, Sinomax has been
active in our country for the last 20 years, though at the moment it
imports the fireworks from China – around 1500 tons in 2007.
Now the group plans to establish a European production centre in
Sugny. This will strengthen its position at the European level and
keep it competitive, as well as giving it access to European
technology for the manufacture of its products. Sinomax’s
environmental footprint will also be reduced as a result of the drop in
imports from China and the reduction in transport on our soil. In
addition it will create new jobs.
The choice of the former military depot in Sugny is no coincidence. The Sinomax group has used this site for a long time to stock
material imported from China before its distribution in Belgium and the rest of Europe. Apart from that it is also the ideal location for
production for safety reasons, as it is in an isolated zone.
In the initial phase (second half of 2009) the plant will provide 20 new jobs. In the course of 2010 (second phase) that figure will rise
to between 50 and 80. An investment of 500,000 euro is involved.
Saudi investment in Genk
Belgian Wilfried Verstraete to head Euler Hermes
SABIC, Saudi Basic Industries
On 1 April 2009 the Belgian Wilfried Verstraete will Corporation is a producer of chemicals,
become CEO of Euler Hermes group, the world artificial fertilisers, plastic and metals.
market leader in credit insurance with its The first stone of the new branch of this
headquarters in Paris. Euler Hermes, which is part of Saudi Arabian company was laid in
the German Allianz Group, has branches in more Genk, in the province Limburg.
than 50 countries. Reinforced plastic granules for the
European automobile industry will be
Between 2004 and 2006 Wilfried Verstraete led produced at the new plant, which will
Euler Hermes’s competitor, Atradius. Before that he provide employment for 75 people. The
held senior positions at, amongst others, France company should be operational by 1
Telecom Group, Mobistar, Wanadoo and Orange. January 2010. With a working area of
Verstraete studied economics at the VUB and W. Verstraete 70,000 square metres, the Sabic branch
earned a master’s degree in Financial Management in Genk will be the Saudi Arabian group’s
at the Vlekho in Brussels. He is an alumnus of the largest plant in Europe.
INSEAD International Executive Program. At the
moment he works for Allianz Global Corporate &
Astronomers at the University of Liege
equip themselves with Trappist telescope Partnership between Vanderbilt University and
for observation of exoplanets and comets Janssen Pharmaceutica, for research into new
treatment for schizophrenia
2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the first use of the
Janssen Pharmaceutica, a
telescope for the observation of the sky.
pharmaceutical company from Beerse,
In those 400 years there has been one major discovery
and the American Vanderbilt University
after the other and Liege has contributed in no small way to
are collaborating on research to find
this ongoing astronomic revolution. Some examples of this
molecules that may be interesting for
are the testing of the XMM, Herschel and Planck space
the treatment of schizophrenia.
telescopes at the space centre in Liege, and the
The objective is to be able to move
development and design of instruments such as the
forward in the treatment of this
auxiliary telescopes of the Very Large Telescope in Chile at
disease, which affects approximately
a liege-based company, Amos (Advanced Mechanical and Stef Heylen
1% of the world population.
Researchers at the University of Liege have also been
responsible for astrophysical discoveries such as planetary Stef Heylen, Chief Medical Officer of RED Europa, sheds some
aurorae, stellar oscillations, mirages and gravitational light on the agreement: quot;Vanderbilt University has developed
lenses, as well as for recording massive stars and the new ways of treating schizophrenia which may eventually offer
discovery of new chemical elements in comets. the prospect of a cure. It is rather unique for a renowned
This autumn astronomers from the university are going to university to collaborate closely with a pharmaceutical research
the Atacama Dessert in Chile to install the Trappist company.
telescope (acronym of Transiting Planets and
Planetesimals Small Telescope). This telescope is 60 cm in The American university is pinning its hopes mainly on drugs
diameter and completely automated. It will be operated by that regulate the general metabolism of our brains, like
remote control from the Institute of Astrophysics and glutamate. It has brought in experienced experts from the
Geophysics at the University of Liege. industry to steer its research in the right direction. Now there is
Financed by the Fonds de la recherche fondamentale an opening it has turned to Janssen because of the many years
collective, Trappist will have two main types of objective. A of experience we have in this domain.”
team from Liege led by Professor Magain will work closely
with a Swiss team to track the transit of exoplanets
Janssen Pharmaceutica has in fact been a global leader in the
(extrasolar planets) in front of stars other than our sun, and
treatment of schizophrenia for more than 50 years. quot;Thanks to
the telescope will also follow numerous comets for several
medicines like RISPERDAL and INVEGA the symptoms of the
months in order to study their outgassing as they approach
disease can be kept reasonably under control, but a real cure is
still not possible. This is why more research is needed. This will
mainly be carried out within the company itself, but co-operation
http://www.ulg.ac.be/cms/c_203963/la-tete-dans-les- agreements with other companies and universities could
etoiles?portal=j_55&printView=true increase our chances of success”, concludes Stef Heylen.
Ghent one of the most authentic
places in the world
Ghent comes third in a global ranking of the most
authentic historical destinations in the new edition
of National Geographic Traveler Magazine.
quot;An interesting range of cultural experiences:
churches, medieval castle museums, and rich
painting collections, well-preserved and -
presentedquot; are the jury’s comments on Ghent.
The ranking contains 109 destinations and was
drawn up by 280 professors, journalists and tour
Young Belgian takes home prizes at international dance
competition in Switzerland
From 27 January to 1 February the 37th edition of the prestigious Prix de Lausanne
took place, an international competition for young dancers (15 to 18 year olds) of all
nationalities who are not yet with a professional dance company. The purpose of the
Prix de Lausanne is to help young dancers embark on a professional career by
awarding them a scholarship for the country and the school of their choice where
they want to continue their studies. The jury consists of important personalities from
the dance world with international reputations.
This year 73 candidates from 21 different countries took part in the
competition, including Edo Wijnen from the Royal Ballet School of
Antwerp. This 16 year old Belgian took home 2 first prizes.
During the finals on 1 February Edo Wijnen finished in 4th place. He
danced a superb contemporary choreography by John Neumeier
(Spring and Fall) with a great deal of feeling and expression, and
impressed the jury with a classical choreography by Petipa. Thanks to
his excellent performance he won one year’s free tuition and a grant to
cover his living expenses for the year.
He also received the prize for the best contemporary dance
interpretation awarded by the Nestlé Art Foundation. This prize goes to
the finalist who shows exceptional potential for contemporary ballet.
The prize includes a traineeship at a ballet school as well as travel and
Belgian humanitarian aid supplies for Belgium to take command of maritime task
Palestinian victims in Gaza force of UNIFIL, the UN mission in Lebanon
Belgian humanitarian supplies destined for the Palestinian
victims of the military operations in the Gaza Strip were officially The United Nations has accepted Belgium’s offer to take
handed over to the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation command of UNIFIL’s maritime task force. A commanding
(JHCO) on 21/01/2009 as part of a B-Fast mission. officer and staff will carry out this task from on board a frigate
that will serve as the command platform from 1 March to 31
The JHCO was responsible May 2009. An Allouette III helicopter will also be stationed on
for transporting the goods to board for the entire period.
Gaza and for passing them on
to UNRWA (United Nations The commanding officer will be Thierry Pynoo, who will have
Relief and Works Agency for the rank of Fleet Admiral for the duration of his command.
Palestine Refugees in the The frigate, the Leopold I, which participated in the UNIFIL
Near East). UNRWA took operation once before, in 2008, left Zeebruges for Lebanon
care of the distribution of the on 16 February with a staff of 23 men on board, consisting of
aid supplies to the population officers and petty officers from Belgium and elsewhere. The
of Gaza. The aid consignment transfer of command took place in Beirut at the end of
involved mainly medically February. The frigate is commanded by Frigate Captain GS
equipment and, more Jean-Marc Claus and has a crew of some 144 men and
particularly, emergency kits women.
and equipment to allow for the
long-term treatment of serious UNIFIL MTF is tasked with
burns in the hospitals in preventing the smuggling of
Gaza. arms and military equipment
to Lebanon with 'maritime
interdiction operations' as well
as carrying out patrols in
Belgium was one of the first European countries to send aid UNIFIL’s maritime operation
supplies via Jordan and this took place in parallel with the zone. The MTF will also
operation whereby wounded Palestinian children were flown to provide support for the
Belgium for medical care. Lebanese Navy so that it can
carry out more independent
The Belgian First Aid & Support team is an interdepartmental military and security tasks in
rapid intervention service which organises urgent assistance for territorial waters.
catastrophes abroad. The Council of Ministers founded B-Fast
on 10 November 2000.
B‐Fast humanitarian operation: Belgium first European country to evacuate and care for seriously wounded
Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip
On 14/01/2009, after receiving prior permission from the Egyptian authorities to land at El-Arish airport, close to the border with Gaza, a
Belgian Embraer airplane evacuated six seriously injured Palestinian children between the ages of 21/2 and 18 from the Gaza Strip, and
transported them to various hospitals in and around Brussels, in function of the capacity available and the care required. The children, who
were seriously wounded and traumatised in the armed conflict, were selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO). One close family
member per child accompanied the children and was accommodated in the hospitals with them.
The patients’ state of health has, on the whole, evolved favourably in the weeks since the evacuation. A number of the children were able to
leave hospital within a matter of days. In order to guarantee their optimal recovery, the children who left hospital and the family members
accompanying them were transferred to a reception centre run by the Red Cross in Yvoir. Everything was done there to ensure the right
environment for the continued recovery of the patients, who have, after all, been through extremely difficult experiences not just medically
but also psychologically. Besides the necessary medical and psychological support, Arabic speakers were also on hand to help. In addition,
a shuttle service was organised to transport the children to the hospitals where they were being treated. The patients are being returned to
Gaza as soon as circumstances allow and they themselves wish it.