Financial policy dominated by consolidation
Submitting the Stability and Growth Pact European member states committed themselves to reduce their budget deficits. In spring this year the German fiscal position worsened more and more and it became obvious that the deficit target would – again – be missed. Despite the worsened starting point Germany affirmed to follow its original stability programme and to attain a budget “close to balance” by the year 2004. Thus, consolidation will have to be strengthened and the scope for fiscal policy narrows down. If current fiscal policy is not sustainable, the necessity of consolidation is obvious. However, the mode of consolidation is controversial. The Stability and Growth Pact focuses on converging budget deficits close to balance. For this, short-term oriented consolidation dominates the more medium and long-term oriented aspects of fiscal policy. Generating economic conditions by fiscal policy is at least restricted, maybe temporarily impossible – and shortening the consolidation period increases its costs. A forecast of the government’s financial development in the years 2002 to 2006 shows clearly that the restructuring of revenues and expenditure will show no progress. In particular, the lack of structural reforms will burden Germany’s fiscal situation in the medium-term oriented consolidation period. However: the political self-commitment this spring leaves no scope for alternatives, but to enforce the consolidation. Despite some efforts, the projection concludes that by the year 2004 the budget will show a deficit.