Who should take care of the sick and elderly – and how should they be paid? Jens Spahn, Chancellor Merkel’s cosmopolitan, conservative health minister, is arguing against the ongoing privatization of care. Companies in the sector – who manage 40 percent of home spots – reacted with anger to his accusations that they put profit before the people they care for as well as their employees. After they shot back, Mr. Spahn rejected their claims that he was pushing socialism, and said he’s instead questioning their pursuit of double-digit growth. Germany needs more care personnel and he thinks the solution is better paying jobs. Having volunteered briefly at a home and seen how hard its employees worked, I agree. Beyond the lunches, the tea, the bathing and bed, there needs to be time to chat.
Fintechs are less cagey on growth and a cheeky upstart is upsetting the Ordnung of Germany’s finance sector. Neophyte Wirecard’s market cap now outstrips that of Deutsche Bank, thanks to a surge in the company’s share price and a slump in Deutsche’s. Wirecard is now the fourth-most valuable financial services firm in Germany. The company makes software to encrypt and transmit the digits of your credit card. Each time you swipe at a till or tap in details online, it bounces the details between you, your bank and your retailer, whether you’re in Asia, Europe or the US. As retail goes digital, analysts see a surge of growth ahead.
If only the creaking power grid could keep up. Germany is busy taking its nuclear plants off the network but its grid isn’t ready for the full switch to renewables. Economics Minister Peter Altmaier plans to speed up the expansion of Germany’s electricity network. It needs 7,700 kilometers of new lines, but only 1,000 are in place so far. Grid operators plead they are up against the mother of all bureaucracies, and one revealed they still drive around vans full of files to regulators. What’s all-important are new north-south power lines to transmit electricity from north, rich in renewables such as wind, to the south, where industry is concentrated. Construction is delayed, not least due to calls from some regions that unsightly pylons be replaced by underground cables. Drilling into the bedrock will take longer and cost more. Apparently, Germans aren’t immune to a damaging have-your-cakeism.
But change is hard, especially when it hits the tongue. There’s been an uprising at Volkswagen after the canteen switched suppliers, leading to a spicier curry sausage. Germany’s “currywurst” is doused with a cloying mix of ketchup, curry powder and chili and it seems the newbie tomato sauce maker doesn’t have the cocktail right. Complaints have flooded the carmaker’s intranet. The timing couldn’t be wurst. VW makes sausages, as well as cars, and its own version of the Bockwurst turns 45 this year, a birthday that threatens to be spoiled by Ketchupgate.
To subscribe to this newsletter or our other two, sign up here.