Belgium - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Belgium has an excellent infrastructure of roads, waterways, ports, and airports. The kingdom has 145,850 kilometers (90,631 miles) of roads that includes 117,701 kilometers (10,999 miles) of paved highways and 1,682 kilometers (1,045 miles) of expressways. In 1997, some 395,505,000 tons of goods were transported across Belgium's roads. The kingdom is the only nation in Western Europe that has an average of 50 km (31 miles) of roadways for every 1,000 square kilometers (386 miles). Brussels is the heart of a dense highway network that extends beyond the borders of the kingdom to major destinations such as Paris, Amsterdam, and London (via the tunnel under the English Channel). There are 3,437 kilometers (2,136 miles) of rail lines, the majority of which are electrified. In 1997, the railways transported approximately 60,696,000 tons of products. There are 2,043

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Belgium 160 793 510 367.3 173 18.7 286.0 266.90 1,400
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Germany 311 948 580 214.5 170 73.1 304.7 173.96 14,400
France 218 937 601 27.5 188 47.4 207.8 110.64 5,370
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

kilometers (1,270 miles) of waterways, of which 1,528 kilometers (950 miles) are in regular commercial use for the transport of goods. In 1997, there were some 106,978,000 tons of goods shipped across the nation's inland waterways. Finally, there is an extensive network of pipelines. There are 161 kilometers (100 miles) of crude oil pipelines, 1,167 kilometers (725 miles) of lines for petroleum products, and over 3,300 kilometers (2,051 miles) of natural gas pipelines. These pipelines transported 96,540,000 tons of fossil fuels in 1993.

Belgium's extensive transportation network and geographic position have enhanced its role as the major point of destination for goods entering Western Europe. The kingdom has 42 airports and a heliport. In 1995, 535,000 tons of goods were shipped via air. The government and the private carrier, SwissAir, jointly own Sabena, the national airline. There is also a low-cost air carrier, Citybird, which provides no-frills inexpensive fares. The international airport at Brussels has become the hub for several major U.S. air carriers. Antwerp is Europe's second largest port facility and is the center of the international diamond trade. The seaports handled some 157,413,000 tons of products in 1995. Ghent and Zeebrugge are also major seaports. Meanwhile, Brussels and Liege are major river ports. In fact, Liege is the third busiest river port in Europe. The Albert Canal can handle river barges of up to 2,000 tons, while other canals easily accommoda te barges of up to 1,350 tons. The kingdom has 22 medium to large merchant marine fleets that include 7 cargo ships, 7 petroleum tankers, and 8 chemical tankers. Combined, these fleets have a combined gross tonnage of 35,075 tons.

Belgians have an average of 427 automobiles per 1,000 inhabitants. The telephone system is highly developed and advanced. There is also an extensive nationwide system of cellular phones and 3.7 million mobile phones currently in use. Mobile phone usage is increasing at a rate of 20 percent per year. The kingdom also has 3 earth satellite stations. The Internet has gained in popularity and there are 51 Internet service providers in the nation. Approximately 1 million families use the Internet and 30 percent frequently purchase goods and services online. By 2004, e-commerce is expected to exceed $13.8 billion per year. In relation to the telecommunications industry, the government is in the third year of a privatization plan. Currently, there are 41 telecom operators besides the national carrier, Belgacom.

Electrical power production exceeds 78.7 billion kilowatts. Nuclear plants supply the majority of power (some 55 percent). Coal provides 12 percent of the king-dom's energy needs. Most of this coal is mined within the country. The nation meets 42 percent of its electrical needs through imported fossil fuels. Some 26.7 percent of these imports are natural gas. The majority of these natural gas supplies are imported from Algeria, the Netherlands, and Norway. The government has adopted a $9 billion program to provide for the modernization and maintenance of the nation's power system. Deregulation is also a priority of this program. Since Electrabel controls 84 percent of the energy market, new companies face significant obstacles while trying to enter this market. Although renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, currently only contribute about 0.17 percent of the nation's energy needs, the government continues to promote them.

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