On Thursday 8 October 2020, the management of the Chamber of Commerce met with Luxembourg's Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot, to present to him the various activities of the professional chamber and discuss the current challenges facing the economy and businesses in the context of the COVID-19 health crisis.
The Economy Minister met with Luc Frieden, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and Carlo Thelen, Director General, accompanied by members of the Executive Committee. Discussions focussed on collaboration with the Ministry of the Economy as well as on the current economic situation and more particularly on the difficult situation of Luxembourg companies, which continue to suffer the harmful consequences of the health and economic crisis.
In a global context marked by great uncertainty, the representatives of the Chamber of Commerce stressed the importance of support measures to avoid the destruction of economic substance and jobs and called for an extension and flexibility of these measures. At a time when the pandemic is regaining force, the leaders of the professional chamber reiterated their recommendations to create the conditions for a lasting recovery that benefits as many people and businesses as possible. These recommendations revolve around five pillars: strengthening the competitiveness of the economy; increasing public investment; stabilising employment; promoting and supporting innovation; and developing an attractive tax system.
Luc Frieden specified that "Whilst the government's measures, such as partial unemployment and the aid schemes put in place, have made it possible to stabilise the economy in the short term, the prolongation of the crisis and therefore harmful effects on our companies require the establishment of new targeted aid. At the same time, the entrepreneurial framework must be strengthened and made more business-friendly in order to allow companies to plan their future serenely over the long term".
Minister Franz Fayot added that "the government remains extremely vigilant in the face of the crisis. Depending on the evolution of the situation, it is not excluded that new measures are considered, in close consultation with the social partners and those most concerned", before stressing that the revival of the economy would also go through the capacity for innovation of companies.
At the end of this meeting, the Economy Minister visited the premises of the House of Entrepreneurship, the one-stop shop launched in 2016 at the instigation of the Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of the Economy to bring together all the stakeholders involved in the process of setting up businesses in Luxembourg and to offer business leaders and project leaders a single point of contact for all their questions and requests for support.
The House of Entrepreneurship launched a COVID-19 hotline at the start of the pandemic to assist and guide businesses affected by the crisis, while maintaining its usual advice and assistance services. In total, some 14,000 phone calls and 10,000 email inquiries were handled by House of Entrepreneurship advisers between March and August. The business support programme was supplemented by the establishment of new initiatives, such as the JobSwitch platform to facilitate the use of temporary labour loans (1,460 applications registered for 537 temporary loans made), the ReAct support programme to help companies affected by the crisis prepare a recovery strategy (138 companies supported) and the establishment of a specific guarantee offered via the Mutual Guarantee to companies in need of a line of credit or a bank loan.
At the end of his visit, Minister Franz Fayot thanked the employees of the Chamber of Commerce and the House of Entrepreneurship "for the good cooperation [...] and the invaluable assistance given to companies". Luc Frieden in turn thanked the Economy Minister for the good collaboration in the management of a crisis situation, which will have "clearly shown to what extent an institution like the Chamber of Commerce can, through the close relations it maintains with its nationals and through the experience and responsiveness of its teams, contribute to the effective management of a crisis which strongly affects the entire economy".