“It Would Be a Mistake to Grant Him His Wish”

Zeit Online

Christian Lindner would be unsuitable as finance minister – but would make a good minister of digital affairs, according to economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam Tooze.

From the coalition negotiations in Berlin so far, two things are clear: The Traffic Light coalition – so named because of the colors associated with the parties involved – is the government Germany needs right now. The three parties – the center-left Social Democrats (red), the business-friendly Free Democrats (yellow) and the Green Party – balance reassurance and innovation. They can readily agree on a new language on language, on immigration, on rights. But, as many feared, the common denominator of the three parties is low. On climate, the message in the paper that emerged from the initial exploratory talks is alarmingly weak. The same goes for the promises on the digital backbone. The language on European policy is not promising either.

The risk is that, though the Traffic Light coalition seems doomed to succeed, it will be a weak government that struggles to meet the challenges of the moment. This means that who gets the top jobs matters. Strong ministers with good staff can make a big difference. The best demonstration of that is Olaf Scholz himself, who has served as German finance minister since 2017.

Under Scholz, who will end up in the Chancellery if the current coalition negotiations find success, the Finance Ministry went from being a brake block to being a driver of change. It delivered a substantial surge in public investment, beginning to make up for the deficits of recent decades. It opened the purse strings at the critical moment in 2020, enabling German society and the economy to get through the shock delivered by the coronavirus crisis. Scholz and his team should care about their legacy at the ministry. They made a huge difference. As the Greens must realize, there can be no serious climate policy without control of the Finance Ministry. It is the number 2 job in the government. As the number 2 party, the Greens should hold it. With Green party co-leader Robert Habeck as finance minister and his party ally Sven Giegold as parliamentary secretary of state in the Finance Ministry, they would have a plausible leadership team.  

Read the full article at Zeit Online.

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