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Belgium’s experience with Peer Reviews By Patrick van Haute, Belgian Ambassador to the OECD. The First OECD-SouthEast Asia Regional Forum Jakarta, 23-24 January 2007. Belgium’s experience with Peer Reviews. Contents Historical background Today The 2007 Belgian economic review in detail

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The First OECD-SouthEast Asia Regional Forum Jakarta, 23-24 January 2007

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Belgium’s experience with Peer Reviews

By Patrick van Haute,

Belgian Ambassador to the OECD

The First OECD-SouthEast Asia Regional ForumJakarta, 23-24 January 2007


Belgium’s experience with Peer Reviews

  • Contents

  • Historical background

  • Today

  • The 2007 Belgian economic review in detail

  • Pro’s and Con’s


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsHistorical Background (1)

  • 1914-1929-1945: Two World Wars, one Big Depression.

  • World War I: 6 to 10 millions dead

  • 1929 depression:

  • Governments try to isolate their economy from external shocks with competitive devaluations, withdrawal from FDI, tariffs increases, creation of trade preferences…

  • Failure of uncoordinated solutions

  • World War II: 62.5 millions dead: 23 in Soviet Union, 20 in Asia, 19 in WE and 600.000 in the US. The European economy is destroyed.


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsHistorical Background (2)

  • 1945-1961

  • Multilateral reaction to rebuild the European economy: Marshall Plan (1947), OECE (1949), OECD (1961)

  • European reaction: ECCS (1951), Common Market (1957), EC, EU

  • OECD Convention Article 5

    In order to achieve its aims, the Organisation may:

    (a) take decisions which…shall be binding on all the Members

    (b) make recommandationsto Members; and

    (c) enter into agreements with Members, non-member States and international organisations.

  • Commitment by Member States to accept being reviewed.


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsHistorical Background (3)

  • 1961-2007

  • 45 years of experience, changes, evolutions, … the peer review system is tailormade for the OECD countries. It is not a one-size-fits-all system.

  • Started with review of economic policy. During 45 years, extended to many other areas: energy, environment, regulatory reform, competition, e-government, development cooperation, …

  • In 2006, Belgium was under review in six different fields: energy, environment, economic review, anti-bribery, money laundering and development cooperation.


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsToday

  • Features of the Peer Review process

  • Checks and balances between 3 parties: the country examined, the Committee and the Secretariat.

  • The Secretariat drafts, the country replies, the Committee discusses.

  • Two lead-examiners.

  • Adoption of the report by the EDRC Committee by consensus (i.e. with the approval of the reviewed country).

  • One or two visits to the country under review

  • Publication


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsA detailed example: the Belgian Economic Review 2007(1)

  • The whole process takes almost 12 months.

  • Step 1 (End May 06): First questionnaire

    • 11 pages, 166 questions sent by the ECO Directorate. Questions are precise and targeted. No general political questions.

    • Topics: financial sector, labour market developments, tertiary education, …

    • The PM Office in Brussels allocates the questions between the different ministeries and agencies. They prepare written answers.

  • Step 2 (19-23 June 06): First visit:

    • a 4 persons team comes to Brussels for a full week of discussions: 5 days, 50 hours, meetings with 103 persons.


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsA detailed example: the Belgian Economic Review 2007(2)

  • Step 3 (End August 06): Second questionnaire

    • 4 pages, 60 questions.

    • The PM Office in Brussels allocates the questions between the different agencies. They prepare written answers.

    • Topics: fiscal policy, labour market policies, tertiary education, financial markets, consumer policy, …

    • Prepared answers to the 2 questionnaires amounted 996 pages + 1043 pages of additional documentation.

  • Step 4 (11-13 September 06) Second visit

    • A 5 persons team comes to Brussels: 3 days, 30 hours of meetings with 66 persons.


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsA detailed example: the Belgian Economic Review 2007(3)

  • Step 5 (20 November 06) Draft Report

    • 135 pages : 1 page executive summary, 6 pages of assessment and recommandaations, 15 recommandations.

    • Examples: a more ambitious fiscal objective is welcome, the labour market is still not functioning properly, tax incentives to savings should be reconsidered.

    • Report sent to PM Office which requests the agencies to react by 30 November.

    • Coordination of reactions by 7 December. 92 pages of redrafting proposals

  • Step 6 (11 December 06) EDRC session

    • The Economic Development Review Committee meets to examine the report: 6 hours, 15 Belgian delegation members, lead by PM Economic adviser.

    • Two lead-examiners: Portugal and Switzerland


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsA detailed example: the Belgian Economic Review 2007(4)

  • Step 7 (12 December 2006) Session for redrafting the recommandations: 6 hours

  • Step 8 (During January 07) Written procedure to clear the definitive version by the EDRC committee (consensus)

  • Step 9 ( February 07) Translation and Printing

  • Step 10 (13 March 2007): Press conference in Brussels

  • by the Prime Minister and the OECD Secretary General to present the review


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsPro’s and Con’s (1)

  • Peer review is not naming and shaming: today’s reviewer will be reviewed tomorrow. All MS must hear the comments and recommandations by others.

  • The process is important, not just the book: through discussion with OECD staff, the authorities get a neutral and non-political view on their policies. Example: tuition fees for tertiary education.

  • Long term advice for short term policy makers.

  • Recommandations not mandatory: since the MS reviewed is free to implement the recommandations, the Secretariat (if followed by the Committee) is also free to make clear recommandations.

  • Quality: the level of expertise offered by the Secretariat needs to be matched in the capital. Statistics.


Belgium’s experience with Peer ReviewsPro’s and Con’s (2)

  • Purpose is to help, not to fingerpoint. Avoid counterproductive results (example: the automatic indexation of wages)

  • Recommandations are based on theory, on expertise, on best practices, on shared experience. They are not based on national politics.

  • OECD recommandations represent a neutral view, from outside. They carry more weight than national recommandations.

  • Recommandations get more weigth through publication of the review.

  • Non members have also been reviewed: China, Chile, Argentina, Russia, … with positive results. For instance, the first Chinese review was concluded last year very successfully.


Belgium’s experience with Peer Reviews

  • Conclusion:

  • Governments like the review processes by the OECD because it helps them to convince their public opinion when policy adjustments are necessary.

  • Thank you


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