Amcham: Please give us a S.W.O.T. analysis of the Luxembourg economy?
Norbert Becker: The strengths are embedded in its resilient and diversified economy, along with its AAA sovereign rating as well as its high standards and expertise in multi-jurisdictional professional services. Luxembourg located at the heart of Europe, is unique in terms of its multi-cultural and multi-linguistic population and is highly rated in terms of safety. In addition to its university and variety of public and private research centers, Luxembourg offers access to excellent international schools.
The countries weaknesses may reside in its delinquent offer of affordable housing which aggravates the mobility challenges linked to increasing daily inflows of commuters. The growing dilution of the partnership mindset within the population, entrepreneurs and business are sometimes considered as not being positive contributors to the economy and society. Regarding the country’s external perception, its nation branding has still insufficiently changed Luxembourg’s image abroad.
Growth opportunities linked to the country’s strategic positioning should be developed within a new vision for Luxembourg as “The Center Of Excellence”, leveraging on digitalization as acceleration factor of innovation. This ambition should be accompanied by a reset of the business mindset in Administration, back to the original success factors of Luxembourg, which have been characterized by its agility, rapidity, reliable system of laws and regulations.
Threats that could harm Luxembourg’s economy are coupled to the intrinsic need for talented human capital. Today structural shortages of talents or departure of highly qualified work force may lead to critical brain drain in promising sectors. The country may experience stress on its political stability as foreign residents becoming a majority in the resident population, are still excluded from the national political decision making and taking.
Domestic consumption may suffer by the fact that a large number of the commuter and immigrant retirees live and spend their retirement benefits in their home countries.
The consequences of Brexit may lead to serious challenges for the international competitiveness of the Luxembourg financial center, should the City of London succeed in adopting an aggressive legal, regulatory and fiscal framework not being at level playing field with the EU.
What are the five most critical skills to be acquired by young university graduates who want to work in private business?
The most critical skills to be acquired by young university graduates are their understanding of the digital world, the development of multilingual, multicultural, and multi jurisdictional skills as well as domain expertise. Apart from technical abilities, graduates should be self-starter, committed, passionate, value driven as well as caring about family and community.
What are the best ways to acquire them?
The best way to acquire those skills for young university graduates are appropriate education and on-the-job experiences already along their studies. Other important factors are to be open minded, curious and engaged in society. Graduates should understand that it is OK to make mistakes provided that lessons are drawn and that it is essential to work hard to be able to achieve their goals and evolve in their careers-as common saying goes “Work hard, no pain no gain.”
What are the five most critical skills to be acquired by non-university graduates looking to gain employment to support themselves and their families during their working careers?
The most critical skills to be acquired are centered around working to be very good, aiming to be the best at whatever you do, maintain a lifelong learning attitude, continuously acquire additional expertise, being engaged in society as well as being dynamic and creative.
What advice would you give to women seeking to return to the workforce after the upbringing of their children?
It is essential for women, seeking to return to their workforce after giving birth to their children, not to lose contact with their professional environment and job prerequisites. They should stay tuned with their working colleagues, employer and friends while staying focused on maintaining and developing their professional skills.
How do you see the Luxembourg economy evolving during the next 10 years?
Based on my personal convictions, Luxembourg’s economy will consolidate, maintain, protect and built out key existing areas. The country should strengthen their efforts in research and develop new activities in the areas of expertise. It should make educated bets on new activities, in the mindset of a start-up nation, in a coherent political, social and economic way. Development objectives should be defined by purpose beyond profit.
What steps can and should be undertaken to enhance Luxembourg as a business location, for both current and future business entrants?
Luxembourg should work on further enhancing public/private dialogue as well as establish project relationship functions at government level to be the conduit and manager (CRM) between an investor and the administration.
It is crucial to strengthen the mindset of welcoming businesses in a context of facilitating attitude versus raising ideological oppositions. Furthermore, the understanding should be promoted that in order to maintain the social welfare state, Luxembourg needs sustainable growth and corresponding infrastructure. Time spend on administrative processes should be cut in half. Antagonisms between private and public shall be eliminated with the purpose of creating a sense of ownership for both to join up to create the Luxembourg of the future.
The country should maintain its efforts to build a public administration of excellence through technology and continuous training.
Within the context of the current EU and global efforts to “harmonize” policies regarding taxation and other regulatory issues, what steps can be taken by the Luxembourg government in partnership with the business community to ensure against unfair market dominance by France, Germany and the other bigger countries with much larger economies?
Luxembourg should recognize the fact that these harmonization policies and actions will stay in place. We should be prepared to more social media attacks and a rise in populism. For the sake of tackling those challenges, Luxembourg should invest in a multiyear, multi country image campaign aiming to pre-empt future unfair attacks.
The future success of Luxembourg must be construed on a zero-defect compliance environment, high productivity with highly skilled staff and professionals. We should develop and grow areas of expertise in existing and new sectors while strengthening our industrial landscape.
Please access the current status of the economic partnership between the US and Luxembourg. What is successful, what is not, and what initiatives can and should be undertaken to further strengthen this partnership? and why?
One can say today that the economic partnership operates very well between a giant, the United States, and a minuscule partner as Luxembourg. Our country even enjoys a higher rank than the size of its economy would warrant. Bilateral agreements and discussions have been implemented in new areas and the diplomatic relationships are a key factor in this partnership.
Please access the current status of the economic partnership between Luxembourg and China. What is successful, what is not and what initiatives can and should be undertaken to further strength this partnership?
While the economic partnership between Luxembourg and China started with industrial projects, it recently developed into the financial service area, along with the diversification of the Chinese economy. Maintaining and developing current relationships should be of support for Luxembourg thriving to build out the notion of being a European hub for Chinese business.
Thank you very much Mr Becker for this Interview!