Business groups blast sluggish pace of reform

Business groups blast sluggish pace of reform
Photo: DPA
In signs of mounting frustration with the performance of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition, leading business groups launched scathing attacks Wednesday on the slow pace of reform.

Anton Börner, the president of the German Federation of Foreign Trade (BGA), called on the government to settle its internal quarrels and get to work on the reforms promised by her coalition of conservative Christian Democrats and pro-business Free Democrats after last September’s election.

“The coalition should finally get to work, rather than continuing with this childishness,” he told daily Die Welt.

The president of the Association of Family Businesses, Patrick Adenauer, also attacked the government, telling the same paper the government had lost touch with its core constituency.

“Barely has a member of the government developed an idea, and it’s been put down in the coalition,” he said. “You can’t communicate reliability that way to the people or to businesses.”

The government has been beset lately by public disagreements over policy and political style in key areas including the economy, welfare, health and the war in Afghanistan.

The criticisms will be particularly worrying to Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle’s Free Democrats, who count business as their power base.

The latest attacks follow similarly harsh remarks from Hans-Peter Keitel, the head of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) on Tuesday.

“Five months after the election, disorientation reigns over us,” he told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “We have lost momentum in Germany. That didn’t have to happen. The government itself knows that it has not performed optimally – indeed carelessly – in a variety of areas, which could have gone better with proper attention.”

Keitel, who speaks for a massive slice of German industry, also took a swipe at Westerwelle’s recent political gamble on welfare, in which he has tried to invigorate his core supporters with rhetorical body blows against Germany’s Hartz IV system of unemployment benefits.

“One must not, when under pressure from opinion polls, fly into a populist corner. The issue has in the meantime arguably trapped the chancellor,” he said.

The BGA’s Börner added that the government should get back on track by following the principle of “more market rather than more state.”

“We can’t continue to swell the social state as before,” he said. “We need more individual responsibility.”

Responding to the latest attacks, CDU member of parliament Michael Fuchs acknowledged some of the criticism was justified.

“The criticism from businesses worries me greatly,” he said.

The coalition should in future resolve its differences in private, behind closed doors, rather than constantly sniping in public, he said.

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