Belgium's structural deficit is forecast to hit nearly €12 billion by the end of the current legislature, piling the pressure on federal party leaders who are yet to agree on the formation of a new federal government.
A report by the Monitoring Committee confirmed previous warnings by federal government formators that serious fiscal and austerity measures should be taken in order to keep the deficit in check, which swells when government spending outpaces tax revenue and other income.
If the budgetary policy remains unchanged, the new figures forecast Belgium's fiscal chasm to progressively swell to reach €11.38 billion by 2024, or the end of the current legislature, according to De Standaard.
With the federal government currently led by a caretaker administration, the new figures put further pressure on party representatives to reach an agreement for a new federal government.
Campaign promises made in the run-up to the federal election in May are not included in the committee's forecast, raising the prospect that the budget could be strained further.
The estimates pour cold water on plans by the outgoing administration, led by French-speaking liberal Charles Michel, to stabilise Belgium's budget by 2021, to keep it in line with European Union fiscal regulations.
Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said that the figures underscored the "pressing need" for the formation of a "fully-fledged" federal government to tackle the budgetary challenge.
"Managing the budget will continue to be one of the most important challenges in the coming years, partly due to the rising cost of ageing. Only a fully-fledged and effective government will be able to tackle that challenge," he said, according to De Morgen.
The Brussels Times
Correction: A previous version of this story said the deficit was €12 million