In 2020, the consolidated debt of the Flemish Authorities was almost 25.2 billion euros (in current prices), measured according to the definitions of the Institute of National Accounts (INA). The calculation of the consolidated debt according to the INA concept is used to reflect the long-term evolution and for interregional and European comparisons.
The debt of the Flemish government according to INA concept decreased from 13.5 billion euros in 1996 to 6.7 billion in 2007, but increased as a result of the ESA 2010 rules (which were applied retroactively) and the sixth state reform to 14.6 billion euros in 2009 and to 18.6 billion euros in 2019. In 2020 there was another strong increase, mainly due to the drastic policy measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since 2014, the Department of Finance and Budget of the Flemish Authorities (FB-FA) uses a broader FB-FA concept for its own debt management , with some corrections to the INA concept. According to the broader FB-FA concept, the consolidated gross debt of the Flemish Authorities was just over 30 billion euros in 2020.
The debt according to the FB-FA concept increased sharply in 2016 because the debt relating to the funding of hospital infrastructure (almost 5 billion euros) was transferred from the federal government to the regions as a consequence of the sixth State reform. In 2017, debt slightly decreased, but it increased again in 2018. In 2019, the debt remained stable compared to 2018, but in 2020 the debt rose very strongly to more than 30 billion euros, mainly due to the Covid-19 policy measures.
In 2020, the consolidated total gross debt of all Belgian governments according to the INA concept amounted to more than 75.9 billion euros. The contribution of the Flemish government to the total Belgian debt was more than 25.2 billion euros. The debt of the Walloon government (French Community and Walloon Region) was 37.4 billion euros and the debt of the Brussels-Capital Region 7.5 billion euros. The debt of the other regional and interregional public authorities stood at 5.6 billion euros.
Between 1995 and 2020, the total Belgian debt increased by 200%. Compared to 2019, the debt increased by 15 billion euros or 41%. This sharp increase is mainly due to the measures taken to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Between 1995 and 2020, the contribution of the Flemish government increased by 99%. After an almost continuous decrease between 2003 and 2007, a sharp increase followed in 2009 and a further increase to 18,708 million euros in 2016. In 2017, the contribution of the Flemish government to the total Belgian debt decreased again. In 2018 and 2019, it increased slightly again and in 2020 very strongly.
The contribution of the Walloon authorities increased by 265% in the period 1995-2020 and that of the Brussels-Capital Region by 237%. The contribution of the interregional government agencies increased very sharply in 2016 due to the debt of the hospital infrastructure. Because the distribution of that debt among the various sub-entities is not yet known, the INA reports this to the interregional units.
In 2020, the Flemish municipal authorities together had a consolidated debt of almost 6.7 billion euros. This figure does not include the debt of the Public Centers for Social Welfare (PCSW), although since 2020 municipal authorities and PCSW have a joint policy report including the joint financial results.
Between 2003 and 2020 the debt decreased by 13%. In 2003, the debt was almost 7.7 billion euros and remained fairly stable until 2007. In 2008 there was a decrease to 7.1 billion euros, but the debt then increased to 8 billion in 2013. From 2014, debt decreased again until 2018, followed by a slight increase in 2019 and a very small decrease in 2020.
There are large differences in the size and evolution of debt of the local authorities other as compared to the municipal authorities.
The debt of the Public Social Welfare Centers (PCSW) was the largest in 2020: 1,7 billion euros. Between 2014 and 2020 their debt decreased by 611 million euros (-27%).
In 2020, the autonomous municipal companies (AMC) had a debt of 1.4 billion euros. From 2014, their debt increased by 685 million euros (+94%).
The PCSW associations had a debt of 657 million euros in 2020, compared to 682 million in 2019. Between 2014 and 2020, their debt increased by 613 million euros (+1,384%). The impact of the phased entry into the policy and management cycle (BBC) plays a role here, as a result of which some PCSW associations only reported figures from 2015 onwards. The increase in the number of associations in recent years also plays a role.
The debt of the provincial authorities decreased from 598 million euros in 2014 to 335 million in 2020 (-44%).
The autonomous provincial companies (APC) had a debt of 25 million euros in 2020, compared to 22 million euros in 2019. In 2015, debt stood at an exceptional high level of 93 million euros.
The consolidated debt of the municipal authorities per inhabitant varies considerably from one municipality to another.
In 85 municipalities (including the center city Turnhout), the debt was lower than 500 euros per inhabitant in 2020. 5 municipalities had no debts: As, Hamont-Achel, Herstappe, Vorselaar en Hooglede. In 25 municipalities, the debt amounted to 1 to 200 euros per inhabitant and in 55 municipalities 201 to 500 euros.
In 101 municipalities (including the center cities of Antwerp and Bruges) the debt in 2020 was between 500 and 1,000 euros per inhabitant, in 75 municipalities (including the center cities of Leuven, Aalst, Sint-Niklaas and Hasselt) between 1,000 and 1,500 euros and in 22 municipalities (including central cities Roeselare and Genk) between 1,500 and 2,000 euros.
The debt amounted to more than 2,000 euros per inhabitant in 17 municipalities (including the center cities of Kortrijk, Ostend, Ghent and Mechelen). The debt was higher than 3,000 euros per inhabitant in Niel (3,315 euros), Mechelen (3,363 euros), Waasmunster (3,510 euros) and Koksijde (3,587 euros).
Consolidated debt: the sum of the financial debts (and in exceptional cases also the other debts) of all entities in the consolidation scope of the Flemish Authorities. The consolidation scope indicates which group of entities are included in the calculation of the consolidated budget, balance (including debt) and annual financial statement. Two concepts for consolidated debt are used: the INA concept and the FB-FA concept.
INA Concept: concept of the Institute for National Accounts (INA) (Flemish Community - Contribution to the consolidated ‘Maastricht’ gross debt) that is used for showing the evolution during the 2004-2018 period at national level and European comparisons.
FB-FA Concept: wider concept of the Department of Finance and Budget of the Flemish Authorities (FB-FA), in which some corrections are made to the INA debt. The most important correction is the inclusion of the debt relating to the funding of hospitals which, since 2016, has been borne by the Flemish budget and which the INA reports to the inter-regional units since its breakdown over the various communities and regions has not yet been determined. However, the Department of Finance and Budget does not want to underestimate the Flemish debt and therefore reports a provisional figure according to its own calculations.
Current or nominal prices: prices for the year in question, not adjusted for inflation.