On Thursday 4 May 2017, the Luxembourg Poland Business Club (LPBC) organised a lunch event at La Table du Belvedere in Luxembourg-Kirchberg.
The LPBC Chairman, Artur Sosna, welcomed the 50+ attendees, members and friends of the LPBC, and the guest speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister of Luxembourg, and Minister for the Economy.
He stressed the focus of the the LPBC is to build bridges; the organisation organises 10-12 events/year and has a representative based in Poland, the former Ambassador to Luxembourg.
He confirmed that LOT Polish airlines will shortly increase the number of flights between Luxembourg and Warsaw to to 11/week.
The Polish economy has grown steadingly over the past few years; a Luxembourg connection is the train connectivity between the Grand Duchy and China, which passes through Poland.
Minister Schneider addressed the Luxembourg economy and bilateral relations between the two countries.
He said that the economic outlook is sound with a 4.2% GDP growth last year, and the same target for this year. Public finances are sound, with no loans taken out by the current government taken out this year, and this to cover 20% of all planned infrastructure investments (i.e. 80% is from existing funds).
He talked about considering transforming the economy; the current economic landscape is great, but the government started the Rifkin study involving 300 experts from businesses and research institutes, looking into how we can transform the economy into a sustainable economy in the years to come. He explained how Jeremy Rifkin took on the challenge of the project to be able to transform the economy - smart metering, broadband technology, high-performance computing, etc. He revealed that Luxembourg either is currently implementing ideas he suggests to other countries and regions, or already has, so the challenge is a different one for him.
He talked about the Energy Internet: in a few years, private households will no longer be dependent on current energy sources, with strong batteries feeding off solar panels, etc., leading to an exchange of energy on a renewable basis.
On mobility, he addressed supporting the development of electric cars and the shared economy, i.e. shared cars. In the future he predicts people will no longer pay to purchase their private cars but will instead pay to use shared mobility. Currently many people are purchasing electric cars for their second household vehicle, but event this trend will evolve. These future sharing cars will be driverless, linked over a smart network. To achieve this, the government is planning to put the system in place for it to work. One result will be the reduction in the number of cars on the roads. Driverless lorries will also be the future. He used the anology of lifts (elevators) where they were first manned by bell-boys who would press the bottons and accompany passengers to their floors; when bell-boys were removed, some people were afraid to ride the lifts alone, at least for a while, until they became confident and accustomed to do so.
He also addressed the issus of tele-working: if everyone worked from home one day a week, traffic would reduce by 20%.
On the diversification of the Luxembourg economy, he said that the Grand Duchy has the advantage of being innovative. He talked about starting to support SES-Astra in 1985 when they were starting to launch their first satellite; the government provided the insurance, a guarantee, which amounted to 5% of the annual state budget. Despite various fears, the government supported the satellite project; nowadays, SES is the largest satellite operator in the world. More than 30 companies now benefit from this decision.
He also referred to the maritime sector, also invested in by the Luxembourg government, and now the Space Resources initiative. He recalled his initial discussions on the latter which resulted in a launch of the initiative last February. He confirmed that at least once a week, an international magazine or newspaper contacts the government to write an article on this exciting initiative.
He described the need to set up a legal framework, where international law is very sparse. He equated the issue to that of the oceans were no individual countries own the oceans, but everyone has the right to fish them. He acknowledged that the US is the only other country currently looking into space resources, but the two countries' approaches are very different.
Regarding Luxembourg, one of his expectations is for foreign investment is space resources to come into Luxembourg as the legal framework is being developed. He also confirmed that Luxembourg will help finance some R&D in this area.
One of the advantages in the government's plans is the rapid advantages of technology which will enable new opportunities. While some initiatives are medium-term, the space resources initiative is long-term in order to support the diversification of the Luxembourg economy.
On links with Poland, he is hoping for a multilateral agreement, following on from MoUs with like-minded countries. He also referred to the logistics sector and the plans for the rail link with China (through Poland) and the finance sector, where Poland currently undertakes the outsourcing of various financial tasks.
Photo (L-R): Minister Etienne Schneider; Artur Sosna, LPBC Chairman