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Revealed: Germany’s worst public spending sins of 2020

Every October the Association of German Taxpayers publishes its “black book” of the worst public spending sins in each federal state. The winners this year include a €20 bottle of water and some very pampered hamsters.

Revealed: Germany's worst public spending sins of 2020
The 'just there' bridge in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Baden Württemberg 

The worst public spending sin in BaWü is a literal bridge to nowhere.

Here's the story: the district of Ladenburg in  Baden-Württemberg is planning a new state road. So far they have built a €1.2 million bridge over a rail track. The private owner of the track already had plans to dismantle the track, though. And the state road also still hasn’t been built, meaning the bridge is currently just standing in the middle of nowhere, neither connected to a road nor actually bridging anything.

Bavaria

The taxpayers’ association are annoyed by a tunnel that is being built to connect the old and new town halls in the town of Erding. The town justified the construction of the €1.1 million tunnel by saying that there was a “need for coordination” between the city hall employees. The Taxpayers' Association asked why employees can’t simply cross the road.

Berlin

This is a tax sin to blow all the other out of the water – counting in the billions rather than millions. Early in the corona pandemic Berlin started sending money to companies who had applied for emergency funding just eight days after setting out the rules. The Taxpayers' Association criticizes the process as having been too fast to check that the applications were kosher. It says the capital wasted at least €1.6 billion.

READ ALSO: Is Germany doing enough to support small businesses in the coronavirus crisis?

Bremen

Photo: DPA

The historical sailing ship, the “Seute Deern” sank in Bremen’s harbour in August last year. Built in 1919, the ship caught fire earlier in the year and the damage sustained then appears to have led to the sinking. The German Bundestag promised to reconstruct the ship at a cost of up to €46 million, an expense the Taxpayers' Association considers a waste.

Hamburg

Germany is well known for its tardiness on digitalization. One example can be found in the stations of Hamburg police forces, which still have 8,082 computers running the Windows 7 operating system. Unfortunately Microsoft stopped providing support for the old operating system this year, meaning the Hanseatic city has had to sign an extended support contract to the tune of €476,000.

Hesse

The central German state seems to be quite responsible in spending its taxpayers' money. The biggest scandal the black book found here was €80,000 for a rusty bench overseeing an industrial estate in the town of Hanau – although that is quite a sum for a park bench.

Lower Saxony

Taxpayers’ cash has been used to build an advertising tower next to a state road. But the tower, built for €700,000 is three meters shorter than planned and is barely visible from the street. The Taxpayers’ Association claims that few businesses are interested in paying for advertisements on it.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

The town of Parchim in northeast Germany got involved in what must have sounded like a cracking business venture at the time: selling “luxury water” from a 181 metre well for €20 a litre to top notch restaurants. Unfortunately not enough restaurants were convinced the “soft and neutral” water was worth the cost and the company went bust, meaning Parchim lost out on close to €700,000.

Photo: DPA

North Rhine-Westphalia

In Germany’s most populous state the Black Book has found that an app that was designed as part of a university project, and funded by the state to the tune of €1.45 million was a waste of money. The app connects people with restaurants in their neighbourhood and has created food cartoons with emotions. If you pass by a burger joint, a hamburger in the app gets grumpy.

Rhineland-Palatinate

A decade ago the city of Bad Bergzabern and the state of Rhineland-Palatinate bought a villa from its private owner, refurbished it for large amounts of money and then sold it back to him. He has since turned it into a 4-star hotel. Local’s have named the building after former state leader Kurt Beck, calling it Kurt’s Castle. The state lost more than €4 million in the wrong-headed business deal.

'Kurt's Castle'. Photo: DPA

Saarland

The town of Völklingendecided to sack the managing director of the Völklinger Hütte, an industrial monument. But it put the wrong address on the letter of dismissal, meaning he was never officially axed. The manager won in the first instance of a legal debate. In the second, the parties agreed on a settlement payment. The total cost: €150,000.

Saxony-Anhalt

Saxony-Anhalt loves its rare field hamster, which can only be a good thing. But the taxpayers association thinks that €20,000 per hamster is too much for a breeding station set to be built in the eastern state.

Saxony

This year, Saxony’s state leader Michael Kretschmer sent an Easter letter to every single one of the state’s residents. The letter explained what was happening with the coronavirus and asked for solidarity. Critics say it was a “trivial collection of slogans without the slightest factual content”. An alternative to the €420,000 spend would have been a free speech on the radio, the taxpayers association says.

Schleswig-Holstein

A multi-storey car park in the picturesque city of Lübeck is seen as the biggest sin in S-H. City administrators decided to renovate it three years ago, but it still wasn’t deemed safe for cars. SO it was ripped down after all. The final cost came in at around €900,000.

Thuringia

The town of Mühlhausen has surely built one of the most expensive playgrounds outside of Disney World. It planned €850,000 for the play landscape but the costs went up to €1.1 million because the builders ahd to add in lighting, which has been forgotten in the original planning.  For that kind of money, you’d think the playpark would have flying carpets and umpa lumpas, but it is literally just a couple of slides, a seesaw and a climbing area.

 

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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