The World Factbook (1990)/Belgium

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The World Factbook (1990)
United States Central Intelligence Agency

pages 28–29


World Factbook (1990) Belgium.jpg

 See regional map V


Total area: 30,510 km²; land area: 30,230 km²

Comparative area: slightly larger than Maryland

Land boundaries: 1,385 km total; France 620 km, Luxembourg 148 km, Netherlands 450 km, FRG 167 km

Coastline: 64 km

Maritime claims:

Continental shelf: not specific
Exclusive fishing zone: equidistant line

with neighbors (extends about 68 km from coast)

Territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy

Terrain: flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast

Natural resources: coal, natural gas

Land use: 24% arable land; 1% permanent crops; 20% meadows and pastures; 21% forest and woodland; 34% other; includes NEGL% irrigated

Environment: air and water pollution

Note: majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels; crossroads of Western Europe; Brussels is the seat of the EC


Population: 9,909,285 (July 1990), growth rate 0.1% (1990)

Birth rate: 12 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 11 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 0 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 6 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 73 years male, 80 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 1.6 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Belgian(s); adjective—Belgian

Ethnic divisions: 55% Fleming, 33% Walloon, 12% mixed or other

Religion: 75% Roman Catholic; remainder Protestant or other

Language: 56% Flemish (Dutch), 32% French, 1% German; 11% legally bilingual; divided along ethnic lines

Literacy: 98%

Labor force: 4,000,000; 58% services, 37% industry, 5% agriculture (1987)

Organized labor: 70% of labor force


Long-form name: Kingdom of Belgium

Type: constitutional monarchy

Capital: Brussels

Administrative divisions: 9 provinces (French—provinces, singular—province; Flemish—provinciën, singular—provincie); Antwerpen, Brabant, Hainaut, Liège, Limburg, Luxembourg, Namur, Oost-Vlaanderen, West-Vlaanderen

Independence: 4 October 1830 (from the Netherlands)

Constitution: 7 February 1831, last revised 8-9 August 1980; the government is in the process of revising the Constitution, with the aim of federalizing the Belgian state

Legal system: civil law system influenced by English constitutional theory; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

National holiday: National Day, 21 July (ascension of King Leopold to the throne in 1831)

Executive branch: monarch, prime minister, five deputy prime ministers, Cabinet

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of an upper chamber or Senate (Flemish—Senaat, French—Sénat) and a lower chamber or Chamber of Representatives (Flemish—Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers, French—Chambre des Représentants)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice (Flemish—Hof van Cassatie, French—Cour de Cassation)

Leaders: Chief of State—King BAUDOUIN I (since 17 July 1951); Heir Apparent Prince ALBERT of Liège (brother of the King; born 6 June 1934);

Head of Government—Prime Minister Wilfried MARTENS, (since April 1979, with a 10-month interruption in 1981)

Political parties and leaders: Flemish Social Christian (CVP), Herman van Rompuy, president; Walloon Social Christian (PSC), Gérard Deprez, president; Flemish Socialist (SP), Frank Vandenbroucke, president; Walloon Socialist (PS), Guy Spitaels, president; Flemish Liberal (PVV), Guy Verhofstadt, president; Walloon Liberal (PRL), Antoine Duquesne, president; Francophone Democratic Front (PDF), Georges Clerfayt, president; Volksunie (VU), Jaak Gabriels, president; Communist Party (PCB), Louis van Geyt, president; Vlaams Blok (VB), Karel Dillen; other minor parties

Suffrage: universal and compulsory at age 18

Elections: Senate—last held 13 December 1987 (next to be held December 1991); results—CVP 19.2%, PS 15.7%, SP 14.7%, PVV 11.3%, PRL 9.3%, VU 8.1%, PSC 7.8%, ECOLO-AGALEV 7.7%, VB 2.0%, VDF 1.3%, other 1.96%; seats—(106 total) CVP 22, PS 20, SP 17, PRL 12, PVV 11, PSC 9, VU 8, ECOLO-AGALEV 5, VB 1, FDF 1;

Chamber of Representatives—last held 13 December 1987 (next to be held December 1991); results—CVP 19.45%, PS 15.66%, SP 14.88%, PVV 11.55%, PRL 9.41%, PSC 8.01%, VU 8.05%, ECOLO-AGALEV 7.05%, VB 1.90%, FDF 1.16%, other 2.88%; seats—(212 total) CVP 43, PS 40, SP 32, PVV 25, PRL 23, PSC 19, VU 16, ECOLO-AGALEV 9, FDF 3, VB 2

Communists: under 5,000 members (December 1985 est.)

Other political or pressure groups: Christian and Socialist Trade Unions; Federation of Belgian Industries; numerous other associations representing bankers, manufacturers, middle-class artisans, and the legal and medical professions; various organizations represent the cultural interests of Flanders and Wallonia; various peace groups such as the Flemish Action Committee Against Nuclear Weapons and Pax Christi


Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Herman DEHENNIN; Chancery at 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 333-6900; there are Belgian Consulates General in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York; US—Ambassador Maynard W. GLITMAN; Embassy at 27 Boulevard du Regent, B-1000 Brussels (mailing address is APO New York 09667); telephone [32](2)513-3830; there is a US Consulate General in Antwerp

Flag: three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the design was based on the flag of France


Overview: This small private-enterprise economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the populous Flemish area in the north, although the government is encouraging reinvestment in the southern region of Walloon. With few natural resources Belgium must import essential raw materials, making its economy closely dependent on the state of world markets. In 1988 over 70% of trade was with other EC countries. During the period 1986-88 the economy profited from falling oil prices and a lower dollar, which helped to improve the terms of trade. Real GDP grew by an average of 3.5% in 1986-89, up from 1.5% in 1985. However, a large budget deficit and 10% unemployment cast a shadow on the economy.

GDP: $136.0 billion, per capita $13,700; real growth rate 4.5% (1989 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.6% (1989 est.)

Unemployment rate: 9.7% est. (1989 est.)

Budget: revenues $45.0 billion; expenditures $55.3 billion, including capital expenditures of NA (1989)

Exports: $100.3 billion (f.o.b., 1989) Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union; commodities—iron and steel, transportation equipment, tractors, diamonds, petroleum products; partners—EC 74%, US 5%, Communist countries 2% (1988)

Imports: $100.1 billion (c.i.f., 1989) Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union; commodities—fuels, grains, chemicals, foodstuffs; partners—EC 72%, US 5%, oil-exporting less developed countries 4%, Communist countries 3% (1988)

External debt: $27.5 billion (1988)

Industrial production: growth rate 6.4% (1988)

Electricity: 17,325,000 kW capacity; 62,780 million kWh produced, 6,350 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: engineering and metal products, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum, coal

Agriculture: accounts for 2% of GDP; emphasis on livestock production beef, veal, pork, milk; major crops are sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, and tobacco; net importer of farm products

Aid: donor—ODA and OOF commitments (1970-87), $4.3 billion

Currency: Belgian franc (plural—francs); 1 Belgian franc (BF) = 100 centimes

Exchange rates: Belgian francs (BF) per US$1—35.468 (January 1990), 39.404 (1989), 36.768 (1988), 37.334 (1987), 44.672(1986), 59.378(1985)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Railroads: Belgian National Railways (SNCB) operates 3,667 km 1.435-meter standard gauge, government owned; 2,563 km double track; 1,978 km electrified; 191 km 1.000-meter gauge, government owned and operated

Highways: 103,396 km total; 1,317 km limited access, divided autoroute; 11,717 km national highway; 1,362 km provincial road; about 38,000 km paved and 51,000 km unpaved rural roads

Inland waterways: 2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use)

Ports: Antwerp, Brugge, Gent, Oostende, Zeebrugge, 1 secondary, and 1 minor maritime; 11 inland

Merchant marine: 67 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,854,898 GRT/3,071,637 DWT; includes 1 short-sea passenger, 10 cargo, 6 roll-on/roll-off, 6 container, 7 petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tanker, 6 liquefied gas, 3 combination ore/oil, 9 chemical tanker, 13 bulk, 6 combination bulk

Pipelines: refined products 1,167 km; crude 161 km; natural gas 3,300 km

Civil air: 47 major transport aircraft

Airports: 42 total, 42 usable; 24 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 14 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 3 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: excellent domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities; 4,560,000 telephones; stations—8 AM, 19 FM (41 relays), 25 TV (10 relays); 5 submarine cables; satellite earth stations operating in INTELSAT 3 Atlantic Ocean and EUTELSAT systems

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force

Military manpower: males 15-49, 2,512,681; 2,114,701 fit for military service; 66,758 reach military age (19) annually

Defense expenditures: 2.7% of GDP, or $3.7 billion (1989 est.)