CSU, the new prohibition party? Way with the penalty interest, calls the party leader Markus Söder. The Bavarian Prime Minister wants to prohibit the banks to ask for amounts up to 100,000 euros an interest, instead of paying as usual in the past, an interest to customers.
The demand should help the battered German small saver. At least that is what Söder wants to arouse. But the fact is: So far only very few banks demand penalty interest and that only with very high assets. The normal small saver is currently not affected. In addition, almost half of all Germans have no savings at all.
With his claim, Söder merely joins in the polemic against the European Central Bank (ECB), which is just back to hear more. For too long, as conservative media and, above all, the German savings banks criticize, German savers will be expropriated. "Draghi steals savers seven billion euros," headlined Bild newspaper, for example, in March this year.
Of course it is true that the persistently low interest rates are a problem for many savers. If inflation is close to two percent, as aimed at by the central bank, and banks only pay interest rates that are in the region of the decimal point, then investors lose real money on their money market account or savings account. What Söder does not say: The low interest rates ensure that everyone with bank debt has to pay less interest. And who forbids the institutions to recover the money from the customer if they are banned from paying higher account maintenance fees?
Why not open a sovereign wealth fund?
What is overlooked by the zero-interest opponents like Söder on top of that is the fact that they are far from speaking for all in Germany. "The ECB's monetary policy pursues the right goals from the point of view of the industry," writes the Federal Association of German Industry (BDI), for example, in a statement. "The credit supply of the economy" must be secured and a "dangerous deflation" prevented. The ECB thus ensures that German companies remain liquid, can lend money cheaply, invest further and create jobs.
Instead of prohibiting penalty interest, Markus Söder should rather look for investment alternatives for the German saver. Because despite zero interest rates, the financial assets of the Germans, the Bundesbank has recently accounted for. Stocks and the capital market as a whole are too risky for many Germans, especially when it comes to retirement provision.
But there are other possibilities: The state could set up its own investment fund, in which the citizens deposit their money - a so-called sovereign wealth fund. The money paid in there would be invested by the federal government in the capital market, in equities, bonds and real estate, as other professional funds do. At the same time, the federal government would guarantee that at least the money paid in will be paid out again.
The experience of other countries such as Norway with such government-led funds is extremely positive. Returns of four to five percent are the rule. Nobody in Germany gets so much on a savings account. Even if the ECB raised the key interest rate again to two or three percent, such returns would be illusory.
Such a sovereign wealth fund would be particularly interesting for people with less income who want to save for their pension in the long term. With a ban on penalty interest, however, they are hardly helped.