Germany facing big budget hole as economy slows

Berlin - Scholz sees shortfall of 25 bln euros by 2023. Exit from coal is among further risks for the budget.

Berlin - Germany is facing a budget shortfall of around 25 billion euros ($28.6 billion) by 2023 as an economic slowdown means tax revenues will come in below previous estimates, a Finance Ministry document obtained by Reuters showed. Global trade tensions and concern about Brexit have already prompted Germany to slash its growth forecast for this year to 1 percent from 1.8 percent previously as a decade-long boom in Europe’s economic powerhouse draws to a close. The ministry document, prepared for Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to present to cabinet colleagues, pointed to annual budget shortfalls of 5 billion euros through to and including 2022. The prospect of budget deficits represents a dramatic deterioration in the finances of Europe’s biggest economy, which reported a budget surplus for the federal government of some 11 billion euros last year. The document highlighted further risks for the budget, including costs related to exiting coal power.

Allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who leads a ruling coalition of her conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), have been pressing for the government to lower the tax burden for the rich. Both Merkel’s conservative bloc and the Social Democrats are seeking to energise their rank-and-file and to win back voters ahead of European and regional elections starting in May. Scholz, a Social Democrat, urged ministers to make savings. “Investments will be carried forward at the 2019 level,” the ministry document read, adding that personnel costs would be frozen.