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ECONOMY

Germany offers to send tax men to Greece

The German government is prepared to send 160 financial experts to Greece to help the country overhaul its tax collection, the business weekly WirtschaftsWoche reported Saturday.

Germany offers to send tax men to Greece
Photo: DPA

Hans Bernhard Beus, deputy finance minister, told the magazine that the tax officials are ready to jump in to help the ailing country. They would need to at least speak English, but about a dozen of the volunteers speak Greek, he said.

A large number of the volunteers would come from western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where state Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) told WirtschaftsWoche: “Greece is facing the problems that former East Germany faced in 1990.”

Walter-Borjans warned that the Greeks would likely have even more reservations about the Germans offering advice than the East Germans did about their western counterparts coming in after reunification. That could also be he said, because of “inappropriate signals” coming from Germany regarding the implementation of Greek austerity measures.

The central German state of Hesse is also prepared to send in volunteers, the state’s Finance Minister Thomas Schäfer of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) said.

“In helping Greece, we should also entertain the idea of bringing in retired tax collectors, because considerable practical experience could be used here,” he told WirtschaftsWoche.

In January, the Greek government released a 170-page list of 4,000 tax evaders, who owe the state approximately €15 billion. The Greek government under Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has announced that it will be seriously pursuing tax evaders.

WirtschaftsWoche reported that, according to confidential report of the EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation, the Greek government has €63 billion in claims against its largest tax evaders.

DPA/The Local/mbw

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ECONOMY

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

Russia's war in Ukraine is slowing down the economy and accelerating inflation in Germany, the Ifo Institute has claimed.

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

According to the Munich-based economics institute, inflation is expected to rise from 5.1 to 6.1 percent in March. This would be the steepest rise in consumer prices since 1982.

Over the past few months, consumers in Germany have already had to battle with huge hikes in energy costs, fuel prices and increases in the price of other everyday commodities.

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With Russia and Ukraine representing major suppliers of wheat and grain, further price rises in the food market are also expected, putting an additional strain on tight incomes. 

At the same time, the ongoing conflict is set to put a dampener on the country’s annual growth forecasts. 

“We only expect growth of between 2.2 and 3.1 percent this year,” Ifo’s head of economic research Timo Wollmershäuser said on Wednesday. 

Due to the increase in the cost of living, consumers in Germany could lose around €6 billion in purchasing power by the end of March alone.

With public life in Germany returning to normal and manufacturers’ order books filling up, a significant rebound in the economy was expected this year. 

But the war “is dampening the economy through significantly higher commodity prices, sanctions, increasing supply bottlenecks for raw materials and intermediate products as well as increased economic uncertainty”, Wollmershäuser said.

Because of the current uncertainly, the Ifo Institute calculated two separate forecasts for the upcoming year.

In the optimistic scenario, the price of oil falls gradually from the current €101 per barrel to €82 by the end of the year, and the price of natural gas falls in parallel.

In the pessimistic scenario, the oil price rises to €140 per barrel by May and only then falls to €122 by the end of the year.

Energy costs have a particularly strong impact on private consumer spending.

They could rise between 3.7 and 5 percent, depending on the developments in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and the German government’s ability to source its energy. 

On Wednesday, German media reported that the government was in the process of thrashing out an additional set of measures designed to support consumers with their rising energy costs.

The hotly debated measures are expected to be finalised on Wednesday evening and could include increased subsidies, a mobility allowance, a fuel rebate and a child bonus for families. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

In one piece of positive news, the number of unemployed people in Germany should fall to below 2.3 million, according to the Ifo Institute.

However, short-time work, known as Kurzarbeit in German, is likely to increase significantly in the pessimistic scenario.

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