Amcham: Please give us also an overview of the current status of the treatment of independents.
Giovanni Patri: The independents are being completely abandoned by the government in 2021. As the government decided to let some activities reopen since January but requested officially to the public to not go out or reduce their social activity, the government decided to kill the local economy slowly. The ministry of the middle classes applied an aid in February, which was a one amount paid once. The Ministry of Economy shines by its absence in the local economy landscape. Hence, I can say that situation is not the best and the coming months and years don’t predict a healthy economy.
What has been offered to independents, what does the sector want, what will it cost, how can the government fund this need?
As mentioned before, a financial aid paid once has been put in place for the independents, which amount has already been used to pay the social security costs for the first months of the year.
The independents need an adaptation of their status, with the implementation of a monthly salary in replacement during the crisis period. This is a project of law that I’m driving since last year and that has been presented in February – March 2021 to the Chamber of Deputies.
On the other side, the social security status of the independents must be revised on the same level as that of an employee, concerning health coverage rights. Actually, an independent pays the part of the employee and the employer without having the same rights of an employee, which is clear discrimination.
Please give us an overview of the current status for the HoReCa sector
The HoReCa sector has been helped “technically” more than the other independents in 2021, but nevertheless it’s the industry the most impacted of the whole crisis. Even though the terrasses can open again, not all restaurant and bar owners have a terrasse. Not forgetting that for some owners after having evaluated the risk to open their terrasses realised it is too high, thus they decided to stay closed, which generated a huge frustration.
I received a lot of complaints at the publication of the law in April 2021, that allowed the reopening of the terrasses, as the specification of “terrasse” was not clear and precise. Hence a lot of ingenious restaurant owners did play on this lack of clearness and the result is that this week the government did announce the amendment of the law to clarify what’s a terrasse and the sanitary measure to respect. We all can agree that this amendment demonstrates a certain amateurism of the government.
What aid has been offered and what is the status of execution?
Actually, the aids mechanism is pretty equivalent to other European countries but it’s the slowness of the execution that is the major complaints of the HoReCa sector. I have been contacted by several members of Rescue Independents and Startups and from AlliancUp to complaint about the fact to have received the aid of February in April and the same for the Chomage Partiel (unemployment wage). This execution problem is unacceptable in a small country as Luxembourg, that made its reputation on the fact of being close to the people and effective, which here is the opposite.
The underlying issue is always the issue of fairness… please give our readers an assessment critiquing the fairness of the government actions.
Since the beginning of the crisis, I urged the government to act more promptly, to anticipate the various situations we had to face. Unfortunately, as we have a government composed of three parties that don’t have the same approach or principles (DP – Greng -LSAP), they demonstrate to do the minimum by understanding each other but with a lack of decisions. The proofs are various, the slowness to adapt the laws with the correct aid for the independents, their non-actions on the commercial rent issue, the too complicated process to get the financial aid and partial unemployment wage, the fact that we are nearly the last in the vaccination process and so on.
Considering there are social security funds prepaid by employees into the old age pension funds system, might it help if the government would agree to allow persons in need to withdraw their contributions they have made on condition of repayment when the situation stabilizes, or consequently losing the future retirement benefits if the contributions withdrawn are not repaid with appropriate interest?
The social security system is actually unfair in regard to the independents and I explain how. An independent is paying the part of the employee and employer, thus he pays for the two roles he assumes in his activity, but the independent does not have the same security (payment of salary in case of sickness, etc.) as an employee and this is the unfairness. In the health crisis in which we still are, the government should have directly adapted this lack in a way that the health of the independent shall be protected as any other working person. I consider that the government has not taken the depth of the social security unfairness and did not had the courage to modernise the system. Personally, I tried to explain this situation to the ministers I spoke with, but without success. My members and I are frustrated and angry by the inadequacy of the government’s response which clearly shows a lack of empathy, lack of caring and lack of fairness.
There is a risk that the present situation will have a long-range negative impact on persons considering to become entrepreneurs and other self-employed business people. What steps should be taken by the government to continue to promote entrepreneurship and other independent/ self-employed business activities?
It is a utopia to not realise that the present crisis will not affect the entrepreneurship spirit of those who thought to be an independent but especially on the younger generation. In 2019 an incredible wave of new young (less young) entrepreneurs was floating into the business world, with fantastic (and less good) ideas, innovating start-ups. Now after nearly 18 months of crisis we’ve been through, people are seeking for protection and secured revenues just like after a war. Thus, I believe that if nothing is done to give trust again in the new generation of entrepreneurs, the economy will be deeply affected.
There appears to be a disproportionate number of non-native Luxembourg residents gaining their living working as independents. Is this correct? And if so, is this the result of existing structural discriminatory practices and conditions?
Yes, there is a large number of independents who are non-native Luxembourg residents, and this is for two reasons, the 1st reason is that the native Luxembourger is naturally driven to have a career in public administration or a larger structure that can assure a certain lifestyle, 2nd reason is that government did a large campaign to motivate people to get independent and also for foreigners to come in Luxembourg to establish their business (fit4start initiatives, etc.). Now this said, the discrimination exists like in every country but, as the major business activities are concentrated in Luxembourg centre, there is a huge number of non-native Luxembourger that have difficulties to be understood by the administration because of, the 1st point raised above, people that never had to take risks, hence the discrimination comes by the lack of understanding.
After having fought for the independents for over one year, do you think about stepping in politics and if yes what would be your position or vision.
Telling you that I don’t consider going into politics would be indecorous in the face of the independents, because I cannot speak out to try to get the government to understand the situation of the independents and afterward go back to my daily job. Politics is the natural next step to make things change, to make the situation evolve in the good way. I don’t want to enter into politics to make a career, if I’m entering the political game, it is to obtain results and to be listened to by the governments that are disconnected to reality. If I’m entering in politics, it is also because I have people around me, that are requesting me to enter the political arena and speak out as an immigrant, a former banker and the founder of a start-up, as a business man which faces on a daily basis the difficulties of thousands of Luxembourg residents that are not satisfied anymore with the fake promises of the political parties that are running the country. You know, as a father, husband, I want to leave a legacy to my family and when I see how the actual politics is done in Luxembourg and in Europe, I can’t stay stoic and wait that someone else “maybe” does something, when I have a clear vision.
What do you mean with a clear vision and do you think that the historical political parties are ready to accept you with your vision?
My vision is very simple and very clear, we need to establish real life principals back and focus on a stable economy. I know that it can sound very rhetorical, but you cannot win a war with reinventing new weapons or fight methods, you need to apply rules that demonstrates their effectiveness in the past and adapt them to the reality of the moment. In other words, we need to embrace the evolution with new technologies but realising also that our economy cannot bring new stuff on the market for the only reason that every year a new smartphone comes out.
We need to focus on the family and to have the family kern solidified, because the youth of today will be the leaders of our future. My vision is family, education (art, entertainment, culture) and economy with respect to our mother nature the planet.
Now concerning the historical political parties that might disagree with me, I honestly think that if it’s the case then it’s just a matter of time before they disappear like dinosaurs.
You know, I like to say that the wind of change takes away with him the old leaves and the tree branches that didn’t hold anymore, to let bloom the stronger and courageous spirits, which is indeed the essence itself of life.
How many people are active members of your movement, Rescue Independents & Startups and AlliancUp Asbl . How can interested people who share your vision and concerns make further contact with you?
I’m very proud to say that the Facebook community of Rescue Independents and Startups is reaching 8’000 members and our association “AlliancUp – The Alliance of Independents and Startups of Luxembourg Asbl” has round 500 members registered.
On May 10, 2021 we will hold our first national congress of AlliancUp and following this huge event I will be able to tell you if the movement will grow or remain at the same level.
As of today and based on the statistics I have noticed that we have 90% active members among all our network together and this on a daily basis, which in Luxembourg is huge.
Everyone who wants to be member of Rescue Independents and Startups can join the Facebook group. For the Independents who wants to be member of AlliancUp, they can go on the website www.alliancup.org and request their registration in the Membership section.
Now, I’m always available to exchange with members and people in general. Hence the persons who wants to contact me personally they can go on my Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn Pages “Giovanni Patri” or directly on my website “www.giovannipatri.com” where they can find my contact details and send me direct messages.