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SPD politician Esra Limbacher: "The passive observer role that the finance minister envisages for Germany is out of date"


BeckerBredel / IMAGO

Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner wants to save money, and harsh criticism of the FDP politician's latest idea is now coming from the ranks of the SPD. "The finance minister is taking an oath of disclosure in terms of industrial policy," Esra Limbacher, an economic politician for the SPD parliamentary group, accuses Lindner. This fails to recognise "that the world has moved on in recent years," Limbacher told SPIEGEL.

Lindner had questioned large, state-sponsored infrastructure investments, especially in the semiconductor and battery sectors. He does not believe that Germany needs to promote key industries in semiconductors, batteries or hydrogen, the finance minister said. The SPD MP Limbacher is now going for confrontation. "The race for technological expertise and production capacities will be decided in this decade," says Limbacher.

"Fatal for Germany as a business location"

Players in China and the USA are investing massively in future technologies. "The passive observer role envisaged by the finance minister for Germany is out of date. It would be fatal for Germany as a business location." Microchips, battery cells, technologies for climate-neutral energy generation and for climate-neutral industry are the basis of German prosperity and good jobs in the coming decades.

Limbacher is thus clearly on course with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), who have spoken out in favor of billions in aid, for example for the construction of semiconductor factories in Magdeburg and Dresden.

Lindner, on the other hand, answered the question of whether he was in favor of the ten billion euros in state aid for the settlement of the Intel factory in Magdeburg, saying 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."

"I don't care"

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.

The finance minister 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, while the SPD and the Greens are opposed.