Merkel Found Wanting as German Business Bemoans Party Platform

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s platform for Sept. 22 elections fails to address the most pressing economic policy areas facing Germany and risks sacrificing the country’s prosperity, business lobby groups said.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party “badly lacks ambition on tax policy in its platform proposals for the election,” Lutz Goebel, president of a group that represents German family entrepreneurs, said in a phone interview yesterday. The party’s policies on minimum wages and getting more women in senior management posts “avoid what’s necessary,” he said.

Kurt Lauk, president of the business wing of Merkel’s CDU, said that Germany needs a simplified tax system and a reduction in the surcharge levied on all earners that goes toward aiding former eastern Germany. Instead, business has to shoulder the government’s enforced switch to renewable power and the threat of statutory appointments of women to company boards, elements more akin to a state-run “planned economy,” he said.

The disaffection of business lobbies with traditional ties to Merkel’s party risks undermining her efforts to build consensus for a platform that will win her a third term. During a “town hall” event on May 28, Merkel said the CDU had developed 45 areas that members were being asked to comment on before she presents the full election platform on June 24.

Merkel said during the call-in that Germany has to be “very careful” on approval for fracking to avoid taking environmental risks and that voters are also “very concerned that our society be a fair one, that the gap between those who earn little and those who earn more doesn’t get bigger.”


The chancellor’s party’s approach to social policy means it is moving on to ground more usually adopted by the main opposition Social Democrats, said Goebel, who has previously criticized Merkel’s backing for euro-area bailouts. The CDU is “attempting to be an ‘SPD-lite.’”

The Merkel government’s single focus now should be on how to secure future prosperity and economic growth, rather than getting distracted by “questionable” topics such as the minimum wage and quotas for woman in top company posts, said Michael Huether, director of the IW Cologne economic institute.

“This government has no overall perspective on the economy, but instead gets caught up in useless little debates,” Huether said in a telephone interview. “Behind it lies the chancellor’s strategy to cover all political bases. But in the end no-one knows where she stands.”

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