12 Apr 2024, 13:48
Benjamin Wehrmann

Most Germans favour greater investments in climate, infrastructure over keeping debt limit – survey

Clean Energy Wire

Most people in Germany want the government to take on new debt to invest in areas that are important for security and prosperity in the future, rather than complying with strict rules on state borrowing, a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation has found. Asked whether they rather agreed with the statement that “it’s right to borrow money today to invest in the future” and provide a healthy environment and functioning infrastructure, or that “it’s a priority to leave our children as little state debt as possible,” 73 percent of respondents picked the first answer and 27 percent the second one. Investments in schools, infrastructure, or climate action could therefore be considered “investment in the confidence of the [political] centre, into support for centrist political parties and into the resilience of our democracy,” the foundation commented.

The survey also revealed a grave loss in trust by members of the middle class in the ability of the government coalition parties to solve urgent problems. The Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party, and the Free Democrats (FDP) collectively lost 29 percentage trust points, while the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) could only gain 7 percentage points in return among middle class members. On average, the share of those viewing their future optimistically dropped significantly within the past two years in Germany, from 66 percent in 2022 to 56 percent in 2024, the foundation added. “The loss of optimism and trust in the middle class and in socially weaker segments of society lead to a resurgence of social conflict lines,” while most people were wishing for levels of higher public investments, it said. The upcoming debate on the 2025 budget “is the last chance for that” before Germany heads into its next general election at the end of next year.

In a joint appeal to the government, civil society groups earlier this week rang the alarm over the debt brake's impact on Germany's ability to navigate the country's energy transition. A ruling by Germany's highest court in November 2023 declared an integral part of the government's funding plan for climate and energy programmes unlawful, dealing a major blow to chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government. The court's decision threw the coalition's funding plans through a special "Climate and Transformation Fund" worth 60 billion euros into disarray, causing major uncertainty among policymakers, industry and citizens waiting to implement new projects.

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