Belgium is third from the bottom of the table of nations expressing their level of trust in government, according to a survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Only Chile and Poland saved Belgium from the last place in the table of 41 nations. Fewer that three in ten Belgians interviewed (29.48%) expressed a level of trust in their government, compared to 27.31% in Poland and only 17.15% in Chile.

The OECD defines the question as follows: “Trust in government refers to the share of people who report having confidence in the national government. The data shown reflect the share of respondents answering ‘yes’ (the other response categories being ‘no’, and ‘don’t know’) to the survey question: “In this country, do you have confidence in… national government?”

A question relating only to national government might appear simplistic when asked of the people of a federated state like Belgium. However other federated states scored much more highly on trust: Germany (65.41) and the United States (46.49%) both did better, despite the renowned distrust by Americans of any form of government.

Belgium’s position in the table has dropped almost as far as it can go. In 2018 Belgium was in 19th place out of 41 countries; in 2019 in 35th place, now four places lower still.

“It has happened before that our country scores poorly in this kind of study,” said Professor Steven Van de Walle of the Institute for Government at the university of Leuven.

“I still remember the Dutroux period in the mid-90s. Even then we were bringing up the rear. But after a few years, that effect fades and we regain our place in the middle bracket. Although we have never been among the top players.”

The most recent results can be linked to the tough 219 elections, and the long period of bitter negotiations that followed in an attempt to form, a government – an effort that took more than a year.

“The harsh election campaign of 2019 and the difficult and lengthy government formation that followed have dealt a major blow to popular confidence, which is still lingering,” Prof Van de Walle said.

“And the squabbling between governments during the corona crisis will not immediately improve things. The strong scores of extreme parties such as Vlaams Belang and PTB-PVDA are an expression of this low confidence,” he said.

Brusselstimes