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EUROPEAN UNION

Strong economy shrinks debt as share of GDP

Germany's total debt increased slightly in 2014, but because the economy grew, its proportion of overall output fell, the Bundesbank (central bank) said on Wednesday.

Strong economy shrinks debt as share of GDP
Workers in a Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg. Photo: DPA

"According to provisional calculations, general government debt in Germany amounted to approximately €2.168 trillion at the end of 2014.

"The debt level thus increased by 2.0 billion on the year," the Bundesbank said in a statement.

But because gross domestic product also expanded, "the debt ratio, i.e., the level of debt in relation to GDP, decreased by 2.4 percentage points to 74.7 percent," the Bundesbank said.

Under EU rules, member states are not allowed to run up overall debt in excess of 60 percent of GDP.

The Bundesbank said that since 2010, general government debt in Germany had grown by a total of €91 billion, equivalent to 3.1 percent of current GDP, as a result of measures relating to the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

"The cumulative effect of the support measures in favour of domestic financial institutions since 2008 amounted to €236 billion or 8.1 percent of GDP," the statement said.

Such effects decreased in the past two years, however, it said.

Under the European budgetary surveillance procedure, EU member states are obliged to submit data on their general government deficit and debt levels to the European Commission twice a year, at the end of March and end of September.

For this purpose, the federal statistical office calculates the public deficit, while the Bundesbank calculates the overall debt level.

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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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