Today, Olaf Scholz, the Federal Finance Minister of Germany, said that the government of Germany was in a strong position to endure the uncertainty that comes with Brexit. During the presentation of his new household budget, Scholz said that Germany “has a lot of money” and is “armed against uncertainties like Brexit.”
The finance minister presented the €360 billion (£310 billion, $408 billion) budget of the German government, emphasising that it would incur no new debts. Scholz, just like Wolfgang Schäuble, his predecessor, is committed to maintaining a balanced budget, called the black zero (“Schwarze Null”). Scholz noted that the government was planning a record amount of investment in housing, education, and infrastructure.
This week, Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, slammed Berlin for not increasing its NATO contributions in the new budget. While Germany is set to invest €45 billion into its military in 2020 (an increase of €2billion from this year), its spending will decline to 1.25 percent of its GDP, breaking its promise to contribute 1.5 percent of its GDP to NATO by 2025.
Scholz refused to release a comment on whether he believed that Grenell was meddling in the domestic affairs of Germany. Last Tuesday, Wolfgang Kubicki, the deputy chairperson of the Bundestag, requested that Grenell be expelled, and some other politicians called him a “total disgrace as an ambassador.”
Today, Scholz was also questioned regarding his support for a possible merger between the Commerzbank and the Deutsche Bank of Germany. He has said that it would create a “national champion.” Workers unions have predicted at least 30,000 job losses in the event the merger of the two banks, with DBV, a banking union, informing Bloomberg today that 10,000 jobs could be lost in Frankfurt, the financial capital, alone.
Scholz said that it is still not clear whether the merger will push through. He said that it was up to the banks and their shareholders to decide. However, he said that he believes Germany must have a strong finance industry in any case. When asked whether the taxpayer could end up footing the bill for the merger, he said that the government “had no plans for financial expenses [for the merger] in the budget.”