STEP Benelux held a business luncheon today at the Cercle Munster with Xavier Bettel as special guest, talking on the topic of STRATEGY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CITY OF LUXEMBOURG: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES.
Xavier Bettel is a qualified lawyer and has been Mayor of Luxembourg city for the past two years. Following the recent general election on 20 October, he is currently tasked by Grand Duke Henri on forming a new government with a coalition of the DP, LSAP and Dei Greng (Greens) political parties. He took time out today to honour a committment to STEP BeNeLux to address their event – which attracted almost 70 attendees – on the development strategy for the Ville de Luxembourg.
Louise Benjamin, Vice-Chairman of STEP BeNeLux, introduced the speaker who acknowledged his role as “formateur” of the incoming government. He addressed the issue of finance and said that the issue of taxation is a delicate one, but that taxes will rise for the super rich but are not expected to rise otherwise, and that it is important for Luxembourg to remain competitive. He also said that Luxembourg’s financial service sector must remain attractive. He blamed the former government for not being able to take difficult decisions on financial and tax aspects.
The city of Luxembourg celebrated passing 100,000 inhabitants earlier this year and celebrated its 1050th anniversary this year. The city has a diversified and multicultural population which continues to grow, yet the percentage of Luxembourg nationals is significantly less than 50%; the French make up the largest nationality among residents.
In 2007, 135,900 people worked in Luxembourg city; this figure is expected to rise to 213,100 by 2030, with the total working population of the country reaching 565,000. currently there are around 160,000 cross-border commuters coming into the city on a daily basis.
He addressed the issues challenges and opportunities facing the city, with economic and commercial competition to be led by large-scale infrastructure projects. He referred to the Royal Hamilius project for the city centre which will provide more retail opportunities to the city; development is expected to start in the new year and should be finished by the end of 2017. The Ban de Gasperich project will be significant too, with an Auchan supermarket as well as offices, including the new PwC headquarters, hotels and circa 600 residential units. The Pont Adolphe is being renovated, with the bypass (temporary bridge) currently being constructed in parallel.
On the issue of mobility, he admitted the air quality in Luxembourg city coudl be better. The Luxembourg city tram will go from Luxembourg city to Place de l’Europe and on to LuxExpo in Kirchberg. This will suit commuters arriving at the train station, to be able to get to Kirchberg without changing bus. He said that although the initial plans for the tram system included overhead electricity cable, he now wants to find a solution to avoid this unsightly aspect. The Place Guillaume II car park will have an additional 250 parking spaces.
He addressed the issue of affordable housing and announced plans of the Baulucken project with sales price of €3k/m2, less than half of that ordinarily available.
Looking back at 2 years as Mayor of Luxembourg city, he identified various challenges which turned into opportunities, including rebuilding a school in Beggen that had been found with asbestos in 2 months over the summer holidays, with bars in Hollerich, taxis which now are avaialable for a cheaper price and use eco-friendly vehicles. He also mentioned the markets and Sunday shop openenings, as well as the new Christmas market at the Place de la Constitution with a ferris wheel, sign language, etc.
He concluded by stating that he is not afraid of challenges and is looking forward to leading the new government; however, he confirmed that he loves his city but if the people want him to address the larger challenges of the country, he will do so.
In the Q&A session, he mentioned that he has met with the outgoing Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker whom he admitted has extensive contacts throughout Europe and offered to support him in whatever (European) aspirations he may have in the future. However, he was more guarded on his support to the current Luxembourg EU Commissioner, Viviane Reding. He mentioned that another plan of his would be to introduce wifi to the parks, so that students, etc., can use the outdoor facilities in new ways.
The Society of Estate and Trust Practitioners (STEP) is the premier global trust and estate planning organisation dedicated to informing and educating estate planning and administration professionals. STEP has nearly 18,000 members in 80 jurisdictions and provides its worldwide members with international learning and a business network focusing on the responsible stewardship of assets today and across the generations. See www.step.org and www.stepbenelux.org
Photo by Geoff Thompson (L-R): Xavier Bettel, current Mayor of Luxembourg city, Louise Benjamin, Luca Tomasi, Chris Vigar (all of STEP BeNeLux)