The National Bank of Belgium regrets to announce the death of its Honorary Governor Fons Verplaetse

Fons Verplaetse

Fons Verplaetse, 1930-2020
Honorary Governor of the National Bank of Belgium

The National Bank of Belgium regrets to announce the death of its Honorary Governor Fons Verplaetse, yesterday evening, following a short illness and complications due to COVID-19. Mr Verplaetse was a leading economist, who made a big contribution to the recovery policy implemented in the 1980s and the efforts to integrate Belgium into the European Monetary Union, through the role he played in the Martens government and later during his mandate as Governor of the NBB.

Born in 1930, Fons Verplaetse studied Commercial and Consular Sciences at the University of KU Leuven. He started working at the Bank in 1953, joining the Research Department, where he soon made a bright career for himself as a talented economist. But he also harboured a special interest in the Bank’s human resources policy. For instance, he helped to improve labour relations through his personal involvement in staff representation. In 1982, he had been seconded to the Cabinet of the then Prime Minister Wilfried Martens, where he was one of the architects of the recovery policy implemented by the Martens V government. In 1983, he was made Head of Cabinet to the Prime Minister, before being appointed Vice-Governor of the Bank in 1988. In 1989, he took over the post of Governor from Jean Godeaux. His mandate at the helm of the NBB oversaw the reform of the money market and the introduction of the Bank’s new interest rate policy. Fons Verplaetse was the inspiration behind the move to peg the Belgian franc to the strong German mark. Back then, the main priority was Belgium’s future membership of the European Economic and Monetary Union. For this reason, the country’s high national debt required a strong recovery policy on the part of the government. In his capacity as Governor, Fons Verplaetse had provided new impetus to this effort and had often taken his place at the negotiating table to prepare the social plan put in place by the Dehaene government in1993. From 1993 until the end of his mandate in 1999, he had also made sure that the country was well prepared to join the European Monetary Union. To mark the end of his mandate as Governor and after a career in the Bank spanning 46 years, he had been given the title of Honorary Governor and had remained very active, not least as an advisor to the National Bank of the Congo. Right up to his last days, he had continued to follow closely economic developments in his country and monetary policy matters. Just a few years before his death, Fons Verplaetse had still been a regular visitor to the Bank to consult documentation.

“We are very grateful to Honorary Governor Fons Verplaetse for the important role that he played in our institution and in the economic and monetary history of our country”, the Bank’s current Governor, Pierre Wunsch, said on 16 October. “During the extremely difficult period of the 1980s and 1990s, he helped shape the economic recovery and the path that would lead us to Monetary Union and later to the Eurosystem. Internally, he steered the Bank with a steady hand through preparations for this major upheaval that EMU would bring.”

The Governor, the Board of Directors and staff members of the National Bank of Belgium would like to convey their deepest sympathy to Mr Verplaetse’s family.