Economy Minister Peter Altmaier announced a series of improvements planned for Germany’s shutdown that would support businesses and the self-employed following consultation with more than 40 trade associations on Tuesday.
The minister, a member of the Christian Democrats (CDU) led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has revealed his intention to make a one-off payment of â¬ 7,500 ($ 9,080) to self-employed workers hard hit by the closure of the pandemic.
He also said that a “distress fund” would alleviate some of the problems some companies have faced in accessing government financial support. Large companies with a turnover of more than 750 million euros could also apply for interim aid.
A timetable for reopening the various branches of the economy would be discussed in early March at the next pandemic-related meeting between the German federal and state governments, Altmaier promised.
Germany’s current shutdown is expected to last until at least March 7, and politicians have made it clear that it is unlikely to end then. They did, however, raise the prospect of a possible relaxation of some restrictions, especially if the variants did not spread widely across the country.
How has the business world reacted?
The president of the German Employers’ Association (BDA), Rainer Dulger, said after consultations with Altmaier that a “comprehensive comprehensive approach” for the whole country was still needed.
He called for a roadmap using “evidence-based decisions” combined with a vaccination and testing strategy for a quick start once restrictions on coronaviruses start to be lifted.
The German Retail Trade Association (HDE) welcomed the inclusion of aid to large companies, which the association had been calling “for months”.
HDE President Josef Sanktjohanser also said in a statement that “policymakers must now ensure transparency with clear and understandable statements”.
The German Travel Association has asked the government for a plan on how and when the tourism industry could resume operations.
“We will have to live a long time with the coronavirus, despite the start of vaccinations”, according to the association. âFinally, we need a political solution that permanently guarantees a maximum of public life, leisure and mobility with and in spite of it.
How did the opposition parties react?
Senior pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) member Michael Theurer disparaged the consultation as “essentially just a therapeutic discussion session.”
“Altmaier could have presented a financial aid fund a long time ago and a concept for an opening prospect for the economy, instead of just announcing it today,” Theurer said.
Klaus Ernst, of the Left Party, said the Economy Ministry had “failed” to put in place structures this summer to ensure the rapid distribution of financial aid.
Green environmental expert Katharina DrÃ¶ge also deplored the “meager” results of the consultation, calling the announced “minor adjustments” a disappointment and pointing to the absence of Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.
ab / msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)