Criticism of the draft budget: “Lindner does not live the debt brake”

Status: 05.09.2023 10:55 a.m

Finance Minister Lindner is facing a lot of headwind for his budget draft: while CDU politician Braun, for example, criticized hidden debts, the social association AWO spoke of a “dark” welfare state.

Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner, who is presenting the draft budget for 2024 to the Bundestag today, has ordered most ministries to save. He wants to comply with the debt brake. But his budget proposal has met with fierce criticism from the opposition and from political and social organizations – some go too far, others not far enough.

The CDU politician Helge Braun, chairman of the budget committee of the Bundestag, accused Lindner and the traffic light coalition of disguising supposed savings by expanding shadow budgets. Braun spoke on Deutschlandfunk of 29 large shadow households such as special funds. The real new borrowing is five times higher than stated in the draft budget. “That’s just too much,” criticized Braun. “Christian Lindner always says the right words about the debt brake, but doesn’t live it,” said the former head of the chancellery to the finance minister and head of the FDP.

Criticism from the Taxpayers’ Union

The President of the Taxpayers’ Association, Reiner Holznagel, argued similarly. Even if, according to the budget, the new debt should be 16.6 billion euros and thus around 30 billion euros less than this year, the federal government’s net borrowing in 2024 will be significantly higher, criticized Holznagel. Additional debts and spending programs worth billions are hidden in special assets. For example in the Bundeswehr special fund.

“Instead of always deciding on new subsidies, the traffic light must offer a comprehensive action program that shows solid prospects for the state budget as well as companies and citizens,” warned Holznagel. The debt brake must be adhered to permanently, he demanded. “That’s why it’s wrong to constantly look for new ways to circumvent the debt brake.”

Federal Audit Office warns of “breaking the law”

With a view to the Bundeswehr special fund and the associated plans to expand the intended use, the Federal Court of Auditors warned the traffic light coalition against breaking the law. “The planned expansion runs counter to the purpose pursued by the constitutional legislature with the special fund,” says a confidential report by the auditors to the budget committee of the Bundestag, from which the AFP agency quotes.

The background is that the federal government no longer only wants to finance particularly large armaments projects from the 100 billion euro special fund, but also wants to use the funds to finance ongoing expenditure. They are striving for a “more flexible use of the special fund’s funds,” writes the Federal Audit Office. This would “endanger” the original goals of the special fund. The “Spiegel” initially reported on the report by the Court of Auditors.

social cuts

Criticism of the cuts, for example in the social sector, youth welfare or political education work came from the relevant associations. The social association Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO) called for a fundamental change in the draft budget. If the budget plans were not changed, it would literally become “dark” in the welfare state, warned AWO President Michael Groß. Specifically, the AWO criticizes cuts in voluntary services, which endangers 35,000 places there. In addition, because of the cuts, “every third migration advice center is about to go out”.

“The cuts also threaten numerous offers and facilities when it comes to integration into the labor market, psychosocial care for refugees and the promotion of democracy in schools,” criticized the social association.

“Devastating sign” for child and youth welfare

The German Children’s Fund called the planned cuts in the Family Ministry a “devastating sign”. “The planned budget of the Ministry of Family Affairs will lead to severe cuts, especially in child and youth welfare,” said association president Thomas Krüger. He referred specifically to planned cuts, for example in the measures of integration and migration research as well as in the future package for exercise, culture and health, in the federal voluntary service or the “cutting of the grants for family vacation sites”. All of this should “not be realized,” demanded Krüger.

The German trade union federation described the cuts in political education work as a “breach of word”. The deputy chairwoman of the DGB, Elke Hannack, pointed out that in its contract the coalition had provided for “needs-based equipment for the children and youth plan and a strengthening of political education and democracy building”. In particular, Hannack criticized the 18.6 percent cut in the budget of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs for the children and youth plan and the cut in the budget of the Federal Agency for Civic Education by 21 percent. It would be a “devastating signal if the federal government wants to save on the future of political youth and adult education right now,” Hannack told the AFP agency.

Budget of 445.7 billion euros

The federal government wants to spend 445.7 billion euros in the coming year – around 30 billion less than planned this year – but as in previous years there was a lot of crisis-related spending, mainly because of the corona pandemic and the energy crisis. Now the plan is to switch to an austerity course. The debt brake enshrined in the Basic Law, which is controversial in parts of the SPD and the Greens, should be observed at all costs. It only allows net borrowing to a very limited extent.

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