Slaying laws - the Belgian way

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Van_quickenborne_picWhat is Belgium famous for besides beer, chocolate and the creation of Body Mass Index? Reforming - says Vincent Van Quickenborne, the Secretary of State for Regulatory Simplification. When in 2003 he took the office, 18 out of 100 Belgians worked for the government, the administrative costs for private companies reached €9 billion a year, and the number of startups was 40 percent down compared with previous years.

Earlier this month, however, Belgium was named a top business climate reformer. Mr. Van Quickenborne explained this transformation:

  • Bottom-up approach: his office gathered more than 20 thousands suggestions before abolishing over 200 regulations
  • Substantial reduction in time and cost - savings of €3 billion - through the introduction of 'paperless office' featuring e-accounting, e-archiving, electronic tax filling and notary services
  • The time required to start a business – the long 56 days – was slashed to 3
  • The reduction in administrative burden for companies coincided with a rise of startup companies by over 40 percent

The Belgian example shows that business reforms are not the realm of developing countries only. Mr. Van Quickenborne concluded by quoting American president Calvin Coolidge: "it's much more important to kill bad laws than to pass good ones."

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