Where's Angela? - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-20-2008, 10:59 PM Thread Starter
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Where's Angela?

Germany's chancellor

Where's Angela?
Nov 20th 2008
From The Economist print edition

It would be good for Germany and the world if Angela Merkel had a higher profile

ITS economy is the biggest in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world. It is the world’s biggest exporter of goods. It has just slumped into a recession. Remarkably, it is still (just) running a budget surplus. Yet through all the recent weeks of crisis-driven summitry, little has been heard from Germany. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of the past three years, has been notable mainly for her invisibility. The contrast with France’s demonically hyperactive Nicolas Sarkozy and even Britain’s newly energised (and weirdly cheery) Gordon Brown has been striking.

There are perfectly good reasons for Ms Merkel’s low profile. France happens to occupy the European Union’s six-monthly rotating presidency, giving Mr Sarkozy an excuse to push to the fore. Mr Brown was a long-serving chancellor of the exchequer and IMF junkie whose grasp of international finance is widely acknowledged. Ms Merkel is by her nature a backroom operator with more of an appetite for policy details than for flashy headlines. And she is hobbled politically because her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is in a “grand coalition” with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). Indeed, the campaign for next September’s federal election, in which Ms Merkel will run against her own foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who hails from the SPD, has in effect already begun (see article).

Yet the office of German chancellor provides a powerful pulpit from which to preach both to a home audience and to other countries. And the fact is that Germany is having a bad crisis. For too long it thought it might skip the downturn altogether, and it was late to wake up to the extent of its banks’ ills. It has been disgracefully reluctant to come up with a large fiscal stimulus, even though it is one of the countries that can best afford one. Like many of his predecessors, the finance minister, Peer Steinbrück, another SPD cove, is over-attached to notions of fiscal rectitude. When the rich world is teetering on the edge of its worst recession since the 1930s, this is no time to insist on balanced budgets.

The silent woman
A louder voice from Germany is desirable not just because it has more scope than others to borrow and spend. It is also needed to bolster Europe’s belief in competition and free markets. Mr Sarkozy is by no means the only politician in Europe to have seized on the financial crisis as an excuse to question the wisdom of laissez-faire and to advocate a bigger role for the state. As someone who grew up in communist East Germany, Ms Merkel has more reason than most to be wary of such an idea. Unfortunately her own government is wavering, with talk this week of help for Opel, a subsidiary of America’s troubled General Motors.

Ms Merkel might retort by pointing out that she is still highly popular with ordinary voters. Indeed, her party seems likely to win the next election. But a splintered electorate may still force her into a second unsatisfactory grand coalition. The risk then is that a continuation of political gridlock would stop further economic reforms in Germany. Worse, Ms Merkel herself sometimes seems unsure that more reform is really needed. Yet though employment has held up recently (see article), few economists doubt that, like the rest of Europe, Germany needs greater liberalisation and more competition if it is to sustain its enviable prosperity in the long run.

Ms Merkel is a skilful operator (politicians who oppose her often seem to change careers). But she would do her country and Europe a favour if she were to speak out more. Who knows, she might even do it persuasively enough to be able to dispense with her troublesome SPD partners next year.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-20-2008, 11:05 PM
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Germany really messed up by not playing ball with the US, when they were fighting the previous war even 6 months ago.
If they had dropped rates etc. earlier, it could have been better.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-20-2008, 11:15 PM
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Those who talk don't know.

Those who know don't talk.
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