Christian Lindner in the Bundestag: "More debt with sharply increased interest rates is not the right way"
Kay Nietfeld / dpa
Finance Minister Christian Lindner does not want to take on additional debt for the 2024 budget, but wants to save money. "We're going to redeploy on the expenditure side. In order to ensure that we realize future investments and important projects of the coalition, we will reprioritize other traditional expenditures that are no longer necessary today," said the FDP politician in the Bundestag.
"In any case, even more debt with sharply increased interest rates is not the right way to go," said Lindner. He would rather spend money on future investments than on interest.
After the Karlsruhe budget ruling, the traffic light government is wrestling with the budget for the coming year. Lindner estimates the funding gap at 17 billion euros. Various cost-cutting measures are being discussed. However, a renewed suspension of the debt brake is also being discussed, in order to finance aid payments to Ukraine through loans, among other things.
The budgeter of the Greens, Sven-Christian Kindler, spoke out in favour of reducing climate-damaging subsidies. "When, if not now?" he asked. Kindler also referred to a ruling by the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg, which has condemned the federal government to launch immediate programs for more climate protection in transport and buildings. In addition, the debt brake for investments in climate protection and infrastructure must be expanded.
CDU: "Let's get to the citizens' money"
Mathias Middelberg, vice-chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, emphasized that the CDU and CSU were prepared to help the coalition constructively find a solution – but that would require that the traffic light in the budget reshuffled and made serious savings. "Let's get to the citizens' money," Middelberg said in the direction of the government. There are four million employable recipients of citizens' benefits, "if you get a few of them into employment, then we would have significant relief in the budget."
Read here: Where would you save on social issues?
Christian Haase, a CDU budgeter, said previous governments had saved much more than the 17 billion. "You don't dare to do that?" he asked, addressing the coalition partners. He also stressed: "The debt brake does not prevent the important expenditures, the debt brake prevents the unimportant ones."
Left-wing housekeeper Gesine Lötzsch pleaded for the abolition of the provision in the Basic Law in the medium term. "We must not pass on a broken infrastructure, a destroyed environment and a nonsensical debt brake to the next generation. That would be deeply immoral and unjust," she said.
Formally, the Bundestag was not about the budget for 2024, but actually about the supplementary budget for the current year. At the same time, the traffic light government initially wants to suspend the debt brake for 2023 in order to retroactively secure loans that have already been used. Following the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court on the 2021 supplementary budget, it is clear that the government should not have taken out these loans without further ado.
The supplementary budget for 2023 is now about almost 45 billion euros, most of which was spent on energy price brakes, but also to support the flood victims in the Ahr Valley. The prerequisite for the suspension of the debt brake is that the Bundestag declares an extraordinary emergency. This is to be voted on in mid-December. The German government argues that the far-reaching humanitarian, social and economic consequences of the Ukraine war will continue to have a significant impact on the state's financial situation this year. The removal of the flood damage from the summer of 2021 has also not yet been completed.
The AfD does not see this as justified. Declaring an emergency situation retroactively for 2023 would be "unconstitutional in any case," said budget politician Peter Boehringer. He called on Friedrich Merz, head of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, to file a lawsuit against it. The AfD itself lacks the necessary number of seats in the Bundestag.