German industry representatives have sharply criticized the election manifesto presented by the Social Democrats on Tuesday, calling it incoherent and unlikely to bring about a much-needed economic upswing.
Business owners were hoping for better news from the chancellor
The president of the German Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (BVMW) criticized the SPD’s plans, saying they would not ensure a sustainable economic recovery. Mario Ohoven said he could not relate to the Social Democrats’ election manifesto and felt the SPD leadership’s recent attempts to woo back leftist supporters had resulted in too many amendments to its social and economic reform course.
German Social Democratic Party (SPD) chairman Franz Müntefering presents the party's election program for the upcoming federal elections
"The SPD election manifesto contains too many populist promises," Ohoven said. "We've always supported the chancellor’s reform agenda, but now we see this agenda being watered down further. Such incoherence won’t help us or the SPD in the long run."
Ohoven said he wanted the consolidation of the federal budget to remain a top priority. He added that the government would do well to prune away at the jungle of bureaucratic rules that was making life almost impossible for small and medium-sized firms, which he said are the backbone of the national economy.
"Each person in a small company spends about 60 hours a year to fill in statistical data sheets in line with state-level or community-level regulations," Ohoven said. "This is only one example of Germany's rampant bureaucracy. Every labor-related regulation which the government has scrapped in recent years has been followed by three new stipulations. No one is able to keep track of them anymore without constantly seeking expensive legal advice from consultants. That’s not the way to move forward."
Small business owners are also demanding tax reforms to free them from the high tax rates imposed on larger, transnational firms. They have also requested tax exemptions for profits which are reinvested in the modernization of the production cycle.
"Over the past few years, some two million new jobs have been created in small and medium-sized companies in Germany," said Ohoven. "Over the same period, large companies have axed about the same amount of jobs. But with more favorable frameworks in place, we could have done much better. Small business owners would liketo employ more staff when the order books are full, but the prospect of not being able to temporarily dismiss workers when the going gets rough has prevented many employers from doing so.”
Waiting on opposition platform
Angela Merkel is due to unveil the CDU's election platform next week
Ohoven said his criticism of the SPD’s election manifesto did not necessarily mean he would be advising the association's members to vote for the opposition conservatives should an early election come about in September.
He said he is looking forward to hearing what the Christian Democrats have to offer small business owners. He won't have to wait long -- CDU party chief Angela Merkel is due to present her party’s manifesto on Monday.