Belgium 'not sick man of Europe:' IMF official

13th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Belgium should not be counted as the "sick man of Europe", the International Monetary Fund said on Monday, but it does need to tackle its economy, and especially its debt problems, quickly.

"The fundamentals of the economy are good but they need to be reinforced," said Erik de Vrijer, head of an IMF delegation, after a 10-day review of the Belgian economy.

Belgium -- divided between its Flemish- and French-speaking communities -- has so far failed to establish a government since elections six months ago, leaving the country uncertain at a time of great strain on the financial markets over the future of the eurozone.

Fellow eurozone members Greece anhd Ireland have had to be bailed out by the EU and IMF this year and there has been speculation that other weaker eurozone states such as Portugal and perhaps even Spain might need help.

De Vrijier said Belgium needed to put together a budget without delay, even though the country has managed to reduce its public deficit.

He said that Belgium was not "the sick man of Europe", as a prominent Flemish leader described it in a magazine article on Monday, but it did need to take remedial action.

In a statement on its website about the economic review, the IMF said that "although the economy has good fundamentals, the financial market turbulence in the euro area poses risks to the recovery".

It warned too that growth would likely slow next year, adding to the pressures on the country, adding: "The outlook is uncertain and risks are predominantly on the downside".

© 2010 AFP

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