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Commentary: In frantic financial distress, the traffic light suddenly brings forth innocent victims as key witnesses

Time and again the Ahr Valley. The fateful flood disaster of 2021, which cost many people their roof over their heads, disrupted lives and destroyed economic livelihoods, is once again at the top of the political agenda. Unfortunately, for a very transparent tactic: especially the SPD has placed the 30 billion aid for the Ahr Valley at the center of the current Bundestag debate on a supplementary budget, where there can be no saving. The Social Democrats are thus targeting the emotional nerve. It can hardly be more dishonest. Because no one seriously questions this aid.

The debate went like this: “Today we also decide whether reconstruction in the Ahr Valley will be advanced,” said SPD member of parliament Dennis Rhode. And his party colleague Wiebke Esdar added: “After the Ahr Valley catastrophe, we signaled to the people that we, as the federal government, stand for it.” And we intend to keep that. Numerous speakers picked up the ball.

Bureaucracy complicates the reconstruction of the Ahr Valley

However, the true background is as follows: For the reconstruction of the Ahr Valley, the federal government, states, and the EU have pledged a total of 30 billion euros. The money also consists of loans taken out by the federal government and parked in a special fund, a separate law has been passed for this.

By mid-2023, however, only around 2.5 billion euros from this fund had been disbursed, which, according to the mayors who have to organize the aid at the local level, is due to a bureaucratic obstacle course. Thus, the whole hypocrisy of the debate is revealed: In fact, no party has seriously demanded a cut in aid for the Ahr Valley. And: When it comes to the budget for 2023, the Ahr Valley item is not 30 billion euros, but in relation to what has been paid out, it is so far only about a tenth of that.

The Traffic Light Government avoids real budget cuts

The sham debate about the Ahr Valley obscures the fact that the Traffic Light Government is avoiding real budget cuts. No one casts the first stone. There are enough dubious projects into which the federal government pours taxpayers’ money. Just six weeks ago, the Ministry for Development Aid promised Senegal 170 million euros so that the country can advance the expansion of its renewable energies, 100 million euros of which are expressly designated for a “socially just energy transition.”

Also under development aid, 87 million euros are earmarked for the introduction of health insurance in Tanzania. And Colombia will receive 200 million for the implementation of its national climate targets. Compared to the missing at least 60 billion euros, these are smaller amounts, but in terms of quantity, they add up to billions.

The Bundestag debate has not moved the situation

In addition, there are the big chunks: subsidies for the energy transition in the heating law, subsidies for industrial settlements, which flow because Germany does not want to lag behind internationally, and social benefits such as a renewed increase in basic income support or money to combat child poverty, which is unclear whether it really helps those affected to get back on their feet.

Bottom line: The Bundestag debate on the supplementary budget has not moved the situation. On the contrary, the Ahr Valley episode leaves a sour taste, as it now appears that the budgetary policy chaos-makers are also dragging flood victims into the political sparring match as their last reserves.

The article “In frantic financial distress, the traffic light suddenly brings forth innocent victims as key witnesses” is from The European.

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