The Berlin Update: 9th February 2013

by Ares Kalandides

My weekly pick of news from and on Germany. Today with the following:

1. Budesrat proposes nation-wide minimum wage

2. KfW head economist demands moderately higher wages and more public investment

3. New book on Angela Merkel

4. On the poverty report of the German government

5. The consequences of knowledge privatisation

6. Low energy costs for large corporate consumers carried by taxpayers

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1. Budesrat proposes nation-wide minimum wage

Entrance of the Bundesrat building in Berlin    © Foto: Bundesrat

Entrance of the Bundesrat building in Berlin © Foto: Bundesrat

The German Bundesrat (house of parliament where the German States are represented), where the governing coalition is now in the minority has brought forth a proposal to introduce nation-wide minimum wages of 8.5€/hour. Eight German states governed by opposition parties (but surprisingly also Saarland, where the government is led by the Christian Democrats) presented the proposal, which will probably be rejected in the Bundestag. While FDP generally rejects the idea, claiming it will threaten jobs, Angela Merkel’s CDU considers varying minimal wages according to branch and region.

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/vorstoss-der-laender-bundesrat-fordert-flaechendeckenden-mindestlohn-1.1613158

http://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/das-bessere-als-feind-des-guten

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2. KfW head economist demands moderately higher wages and more public investment

KfW branch in Berlin

KfW branch in Berlin

The new head economist of German state bank KfW, Jörg Zeuner, in an interview to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung speaks about higher wages and more public investment to boost demand. Generally optimistic about the growth of the German economy  – expecting 0.9% GDP growth by the end of the year –  he focuses on higher wages and the housing sector as the two sources of growth. At the same time he warns against endangering German global competitiveness by too high wages, as in the case of France. Zeuner believes that the state should invest more, approximately 30-40 billion € more, even if that investment is financed by loans at a time where interests are at their lowest.

http://www.fr-online.de/wirtschaft/kfw-chefoekonom-joerg-zeuner–der-oeffentliche-sektor-investiert-zu-wenig-,1472780,21978428.html

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3. New book on Angela Merkel

The new book cover

The new book cover

Stephan Hebel has published a book on Angela Merkel, paraphrasing Brecht: “Mother Damage” (instead of Mother Courage), or “Why the nation does not need Angela Merkel or her policy”. His point of departure is a general feeling among Germans that “Merkel is not doing such a bad job after all”. And from there he attempts to show, how disastrous her politics have been for Europe and for Germany.

“In more than two decades of policy observation I have never experienced such a blatant contradiction between the image of a political personality and their actual policies. Never has a politician in Germany succeeded that well to act to the detriment of the majority and also to win the sympathy of the majority.

This book aims to confront the public self-portrayal of Angela Merkel with her policies. It wants to oppose factual arguments  to the image of Super Chancellor in the face of the upcoming general elections . With these arguments it wants to encourage those who, like us, feel uncomfortable with the rhetoric, the Chancellor and her entourage as they are depicted in the media. It wants to promote alternatives to a policy that does permanent harm to Germany and endangers the common European future.”(From the introduction. My translation)

http://westendverlag.de/westend/buch.php?p=88&n=leseprobe

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4. On the poverty report of the German government

The German Minister of Labour, Ursula von den Leyen. Photo by Michael von Aichberger

The German Minister of Labour, Ursula von den Leyen. Photo by Michael von Aichberger

The publication of the “Report of the German government on poverty” has triggered a huge controversy in Germany. While the Ministries present the findings as a proof that inequality in Germany has not grown, the opposition accuses the government of manipulating the findings. For example, while for the opposition the growing difference between high and low wages is a sign of growing inequality, the governing parties interpret it as “structural adaptation of the labour market”. The original version of the report contained some highly critical expressions, which were removed in the final public version.

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/armutsbericht-der-bundesregierung-von-der-leyen-schliesst-die-schere-1.1617044

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/von-der-leyens-geschoenter-armutsbericht-ende-der-durchsage-1.1617451

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5. The consequences of knowledge privatisation

Humboldt University Berlin, Unter den Linden

Humboldt University Berlin, Unter den Linden

The article in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit analyses the controversial impact of private sponsoring of research. Taking Switzerland as an example it questions the neutrality of science when it depends on large corporations for its survival.

http://www.zeit.de/2013/10/Uni-Sponsoring-Schweiz-Analyse/komplettansich

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6. Low energy costs for large corporate consumers carried by taxpayers

strommasten-atomstrom-540x304

A surprising decision of a Court in Düsseldorf reached the newspapers this week: The court decided that the exemption of large energy-consuming enterprises from paying the regular electricity price is illegal. It was not the exemption itself that was the problem. The surprising part was that the loss produced among the energy corporations was divided among the taxpayers. In other words, taxpayers paid energy corporations to reduce the price of energy-consuming businesses by balancing out their losses.

https://www.juris.de/jportal/portal/page/homerl.psml?nid=jnachr-JUNA130300732&cmsuri=%2Fjuris%2Fde%2Fnachrichten%2Fzeigenachricht.jsp

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