Jens Weidmann, boss of Germany’s central bank, has a major headache, and it’s unrelated to monetary policy. The Bundesbank’s HQ is being revamped and, like so many major construction projects here, it’s hit a snag. The attempt to build a new “campus” has been flummoxed by a construction manager from the private sector who doesn’t know how to navigate public projects as well as the problem of nearly 2,000 tons of gold that have to stay parked in the cellar.
This story reminds me of the billions wasted at the construction site that is supposed to be Berlin’s new airport, which has been plagued by bungling and corruption: 2,271 days since it was meant to open. Then there was the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg’s fancy new concert hall, finished late and over-budget. The Bundesbank hasn’t said what it’ll spend on its campus project – money is not really its concern – and is vague on the deadline too. I hope the staff are comfortable in the temporary premises because this logistical nightmare threatens to once again prove that Germany’s reputation for efficiency is just a reputation, not a reality.
Speaking of Germany, the country’s outsize exports will apparently give it the world’s highest trade surplus for the third year in a row. The €270 billion surplus is likely to roil the man in the White House but there’s only so many Chevrolets and so much tofu we can buy. More importantly, with crumbling schools, pothole-ridden highways and tumbledown government offices sporting creaky fax machines, it’s a great time to spend more on infrastructure. But if you compare the numbers for services, the relationship flips: Since the US dominates the digital realm, its surplus outstrips that of Germany, and of the whole of Europe.
But the German government is already offering new help to one domestic industry: Video games. That’s some good news just as Gamescom launches in Cologne. Calling itself the world’s largest trade show for interactive games and entertainment, it’s hoping to draw up to 500,000 players, many dressed like their favorite Fortnite character. It’ll be a while before “Made in Germany” is a thing among gamers but it will help them face off against rivals in the United States, Canada and France. VR technology is also used by carmakers, architects, schools and media, as well as Pac-men, assassins and winged robo-heroes. Players, if you’re in town, yeah, pixels are good but check out the city too – especially the Kölsch.
But digital is tricky, and we oldies are playing a clunky catchup. Conservative politician Markus Söder is living down a digital gaff after Social Democrats bought the internet address with his campaign slogan. The CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, see support falling ahead of an election in the southern state this fall. Mr. Söder and his crew have decided that campaigning hard means, in part at least, coming down hard on asylum-seekers as well as the phrase, “Söder machts”, which translates as “Söder can do it.” Unfortunately, Googlers of his campaign slogan reach a site riddled with criticism, from questionable deportations to fired teachers to the Christianization of schools. What is he doing?
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