The mid-1980s were characterized by a lackluster economy in Belgium, but the country began to recover by 1988, a trend which continued into 1989. Real growth in GDP increased by 2.2 percent in 1989 following 2.2 percent growth in 1988, performance which exceeded analysts' expectations by a full percentage point. Demand components of GDP were all on an upward trend at this time and private consumption was moving steadily upward, as well. The nation had a current account surplus of 1.8 percent of GDP coupled with a low inflation rate and strong competitiveness in the international market. However, the government had not yet succeeded in substantially reducing its budget deficit, which remained at 8.3 percent of GDP for 1988 with a total cumulative debt of 130 percent of GDP. Between 1988 and 1989, the nation saw a 10 percent reduction in the number of unemployed, and a low inflation rate of only 1.2 percent. Investment prospects were good for both domestic and international investors as capacity utilization was estimated at 85 percent (meaning that the nation would need additional investment in order to increase its capacity) ("Belgium: A Period," 1989, p. 20).
in the late 1980s and 1990. SBG controlled Belgium's largest bank; GBL controlled the second largest. SBG exerted influence on the nonferrous metals sector, cement, engineering, chemicals, and insurance industries. GBL's influence extended primarily toward finance and investment services. Both groups share control of the nation's three private utility companies. After a failed takeover attempt by Italian entrepreneur Carlo De Benedetti, SGB was acquired by Suez of France. At this point also, the Brussels stock market was inactive, as it has been historically, the result of tight government regulation combined with corporate conservatism. The market specialized in government bonds and corporate debt (Tigner, 1990, p. 57).
The Belgian economy recovered from its 1993 recession fairly quickly, pos