Opinion: A recipe for standstill | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.12.2013
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Opinion: A recipe for standstill

Germany is presently the motor of the European economy. Exports, labor market and tax revenues are all balanced. But DW's Henrik Böhme doubts this can continue under the new government.

Next week, Germany will once again have a working government. It's about time - the number of tasks that lie ahead for the 'grand coalition' is enormous. But the circumstances right now are promising. Germany's economy is the only one in Europe to have come through the financial crisis unscathed. Exports are doing well, the labor market has proved its robustness and tax revenues are bubbling over.

Many people had a part in bringing about this success. There are the clever entrepreneurs, the flexible labor unions and, not least, the outgoing government coalition of the center-right CDU/CSU and the pro-market FDP.

But a look through the 'grand coalition' agreement, in which the CDU/CSU and SPD declare their goals for the next four years, should cause serious worries that Germany's recent successes will grind to a halt. It looks more like a recipe for stagnation than for development. There is no real signal to make Germany a forerunner in technological development that could take on the competition from booming Asian countries. It's simply "more of the same."

A super minister is not enough

Four key terms summarize the problems: demographic change, infrastructure, education and energy transition. The transition to renewable energy ought to be a good thing, but it has been a mess. Now a "super minister" has to fix it, namely SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel, the incoming minister for the economy and energy policy.

I do not understand what is super about that. Will the economy ministry, with its traditional closeness to industry, suddenly become an alternative-energy bulwark that can win over the energy producers? Things will get tough next week if the EU decides to initiate a lawsuit against Germany because of concerns its green energy funding is anti-competitive. The new coalition will be navigating a minefield from the start.

The situation is similar with the other problems areas. Germany's infrastructure needs substantial investment. The new government is willing to address the matter, but the funding it plans to make available is far from what is needed to make roads, railways and digital networks ready for the future.

And as for demographic change, urgent action is needed to cope with the foreseeable loss of millions of workers. But what is the new government in Berlin doing about it? They are handing out benefits that cost billions, such as a full pension at the age of 63. Genuine progress looks different.

I cannot shake the suspicion that the grand coalition will fail to bring Germany forward. There is a lot of distrust involved. Specifically, the SPD is looking ahead to 2017, when the next government will be elected. A lot will have to change if the final verdict is not to be: These were four lost years for Germany.

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