Enlarge image

Christian Lindner on Wednesday in the Federal Cabinet: First on the citizens' allowance – does he now also want to cut back on industry?

Photo: Markus Schreiber / AP

While the traffic light coalition is arguing intensively about the upcoming federal budget, Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner has now hinted at a controversial economic policy savings idea: The FDP politician questioned the sense of large, state-sponsored infrastructure investments, especially in the semiconductor and battery sector.

He is not of the opinion that Germany should promote key industries in semiconductors, batteries or hydrogen, the FDP leader told the »Wirtschaftswoche«: »I do not share the paradigm of autonomy.« In doing so, Lindner opposes Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), who have clearly spoken out in favor of billions in aid, for example for the construction of semiconductor factories in Magdeburg and Dresden.

Is it possible to reduce dependency without billions in subsidies?

When asked whether he was in favor of the ten billion euros in state aid for the settlement of the Intel factory in Magdeburg, Lindner replied that there were long-term declarations of intent. He is currently negotiating with Scholz and Habeck on the 2024 budget. But he also said: "Regardless of this individual case, I am not convinced in the medium and long term that Germany can secure its competitiveness, prosperity and social security through subsidies."

Germany needs resilient supply chains and, in particular, de-risking in its China business, Lindner said. "But it doesn't matter to me whether semiconductors come from the USA, Ireland or Germany – ideally they come from different sources," said Lindner. "It would be foolish to think that we have to have all industries and all links in a value chain in our country."

Numerous companies are currently trembling after the Karlsruhe budget ruling, many are now worried about funding, and the ecological transformation is shaking in many areas. Northvolt in Schleswig-Holstein, on the other hand, has recently received a funding decision despite a budget freeze. According to Lindner, because of the advanced stage of the proceedings.

Meanwhile, Saarland's Prime Minister Anke Rehlinger called on the traffic light coalition to keep its promises for promised funding. "Many companies are deeply uncertain as to whether they can still rely on the promises of the federal and state governments in terms of subsidies or investment aid," the SPD politician told the Rheinische Post. Reliability has always been a major locational advantage of Germany. The traffic light coalition must not risk this now, the promises must stand."

Hardened fronts in the traffic light

Lindner already sees Germany in a deep crisis. "Site conditions have deteriorated dramatically," he said. He now wants to achieve not only budget consolidation, but also a "dynamization package for the economy." However, the FDP leader reiterated that he was against both a renewed suspension of the debt brake in 2024 and tax increases.

In addition to economic policy, Lindner had recently proposed cuts in the social sector, but according to the Federal Employment Agency, a short-term reversal of the citizens' allowance increase on January 1 is no longer possible. For their part, the other traffic light partners are also intransigent. Cuts in development aid? The Greens reject it. Cuts in the social sphere? Encountering resistance from the SPD.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has now ruled out cuts to his reform plans – such as the billion-euro transformation fund for hospitals planned by the federal and state governments – in the Handelsblatt. Austerity without reform means a reduction in benefits. We don't do that," the SPD politician told the newspaper. That is why reforms are necessary. "If the system remains as inefficient as it is now, benefit cuts or further increases in contributions would be unavoidable. Both would be wrong," he warned. Even the difficult budgetary situation does not change this."