FREE DEMOCRATS

Liberal Leader Says German Economy is 'on Drugs'

FDP-Bundesparteitag in Berlin
Eyes on the prize. Picture source: DPA.

Every new report, it seems, brings more good news about the German economy. While much of the world grapples with uncertainty, Europe’s largest economy is near full employment, has generated a €23 billion budget surplus and is reaping a windfall from its booming exports.

But Christian Lindner, the head of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), thinks it’s mostly hype. In his view, external factors such as an undervalued euro, low interest rates and falling commodity prices are the real drivers of Germany’s economic success, not underlying strength in the economy.

“In economic terms, Germany is on drugs,” Mr. Lindner told Handelsblatt. “It makes us appear stronger than we actually are,” he said.

If Germany has a drug problem, then the Free Democrats, Germany’s socially liberal free-marketeers, are preparing an intervention. Under Mr. Lindner’s leadership, the pro-business party has formulated an ambitious reform agenda to prepare Europe’s largest economy for the future. The FDP wants to liberalize the labor market, digitize government and invest in fiber-optic infrastructure to better connect medium-sized business and the self-employed, particularly those in rural areas.

Of course, true to their ideological heritage, the party wants to ax a whole array of taxes, from a tax on electricity to the solidarity tax, which was brought in after unification to fund investment in the states of former communist East Germany.

“We want to create a new balance between the citizen and the state, but it’s not just about taxes for us,” Mr. Lindner said. “We see ourselves as agents to accelerate political progress. There are enough administrators of the status quo,” he said.

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