German budget to spend more on military in 2019 | News | DW | 09.11.2018
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German budget to spend more on military in 2019

Defense spending will go up by several billion euros next year, according to a newly agreed budget plan. The budget maintained Germany's zero-deficit tradition, but only by digging into its refugee reserve fund.

After over 15 hours of negotiations and numerous revisions, Germany's parliamentary budget committee hammered out the country's budget for 2019 early on Friday morning.

Opposition politicians took issue, however, with the increased military spending while renewable energies and other areas saw more modest raises.

What's in the budget?

  • Total spending will increase, with some €356.4 billion ($404.3 billion) in expenditures planned for next year — €13 billion more than 2018.
  • For the sixth year in a row, the government has proposed a balanced budget with no new debts — holding on to its so-called "schwarze Null" or "black zero" policy.
  • More money will be spent on the military, domestic security, development cooperation, infrastructure and families.
  • The Defense Ministry alone will receive €43.23 billion to purchase new ships and transport helicopters, which is up from the €38.5 billion it got this year.
  • The largest portion of the budget will continue to go to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which will get €145.3 billion next year — €6.1 billion more than in 2018.
  • The amount of monthly child benefit payments for families is also set to rise.
  • The budget will also significantly increase the number of jobs in Germany's numerous ministries by around 8,750 positions.

Opposition slams 'disastrous' plan

The budgetary spokesperson for the Greens, Sven-Christian Kindler, described the agreed budget as "disastrous" and "more of the same" from the governing coalition between German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

"The coalition doesn't have the will or the power for fundamental change," Kindler said, adding that the government "is spreading around money with a watering can without a clear direction." The budget plan also only includes modest allotments for renewable energy and the environment he noted.

Merkel's coalition was only able to ensure there would be no new debts by taking nearly a half-a-billion euros from a reserve fund for asylum-seekers, said Otto Fricke, the budgetary expert for the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP).

The Finance Ministry said in early November that the budgetary situation was doing so well, that they wouldn't have to dip into the refugee reserve, the Handeslblatt newspaper reported.

What is Germany's 'black zero?' The conservative budget policy was made famous under former Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. In 2014, he became the first finance minister to balance the German budget since 1969. Current Finance Minister and SPD politician Olaf Scholz has so far continued the tradition of pushing for a balanced budget and zero deficit.

What happens next: Germany's federal parliament, the Bundestag, will still need to debate and approve the budget plan, which is expected to happen on November 23.

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rs/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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