The double crisis robs the federal government of its future leverage.

The traffic light increases the Economic Stabilization Fund (WSF) by 200 billion euros in order to have an effective weapon at hand in the "energy war" with Moscow.

But that entails repayment obligations, as was the case with the extra loans that the federal government had to take out or will take out because of the corona pandemic.

Manfred Schäfers

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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A lot is still in flux, so that no definitive figure can be given for the repayment payments today, but the coalition will operate with an annual volume of 18 billion euros from 2028 onwards.

That would be more than the federal government is allowed to absorb under the debt rule in normal times.

The Basic Law limits structural net borrowing to 0.35 percent of gross domestic product, which is currently around twelve billion euros.

Even if there is hope in the coalition that the legacy burden will ultimately be somewhat smaller, the repayment obligation at the end of the decade is likely to exceed the credit limit.

How much the federal government will ultimately have to repay depends on a few unknowns.

If he needs fewer additional loans this year than planned, that reduces the future obligation.

And if he does not need all credit authorizations in the Economic Stabilization Fund, that also reduces the repayment burden.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) emphasized conspicuously often that the entire 200 billion euros from the economic defense shield does not necessarily have to be spent.

200 billion does not have to be spent in full

Looking back shows that his hope that it might not be as bad as feared is not entirely unfounded.

At the beginning of the corona pandemic, the fund was endowed with 600 billion euros in 2020, two thirds of which were for guarantees in favor of companies with liquidity difficulties, so that they could get loans more easily from banks and savings banks.

100 billion euros were reserved for the recapitalization of companies and another 100 billion euros for refinancing the state development bank KfW so that it can set up the desired programs.

Ultimately, much less was needed.

At the beginning of this year, the financial framework was reduced to 250 billion euros.

At best, 100 billion euros are now earmarked for guarantees, and “only” 50 billion euros for recapitalization.

Only the KfW, which is always needed in all situations, remained at 100 billion euros.

That's still a lot more than was needed: the equity support added up to just under ten billion euros at the top, of which Lufthansa accounted for almost six billion euros.

The group with the crane has now repaid the money, so there is less open.

The fund has not given any guarantees.

Pandemic cost a lot

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the pandemic has cost the federal government a lot of money.

He has repeatedly had to resort to the exception clause in the debt rule.

After years with balanced budgets or even surpluses, things have been rock solid for three years: two years ago, the federal government borrowed 130.5 billion euros, and in 2021 even 215.4 billion euros, also because the traffic light subsequently put 60 billion euros into the energy and climate fund pushed, recently climate and transformation fund.

For this year, the coalition had actually planned new borrowing of 138.9 billion euros - after the Russian attack on Ukraine, the Bundeswehr special fund was added.

Over the next few years, the country's defense capability will be strengthened with an additional 100 billion euros.

This runs past the debt rule, for which the Basic Law was changed.

Lindner's goal is to manage the federal budget again next year within the framework of the debt brake.

Otherwise he fears a dam rupture.

He can only fend off further demands from his cabinet colleagues by referring to the Basic Law - according to the motto: You can't pick a naked man's pocket.

However, if you only look at the federal budget, you will only get half of it at best.

According to the new posting rule, which was implemented very quickly by the traffic light, it is no longer the outflow of funds from the special funds that is decisive for the debt rule, but their filling.

With the climate fund, the Bundeswehr special fund and the economic stabilization fund, the federal government will make greater demands on the capital market for a few more years than the official new debt would suggest.

The time after that is all the more brutal for him.