Local Elections in Oberursel

The centre of OberurselWith local elections taking place in Oberursel tomorrow, amongst other things for the town parliament (Stadtparlament), I decided to take a trip into the town centre this morning and see what the political parties had to say for themselves.

In particular I wanted to know about plans to replace the town swimming pool, which has been closed for several years.  Recently there has been some discussion about the town selling off land to finance the building work.  This would not be so bad, if there was not already a sports field on it!

Then I wanted to know what plans the town has for the future of the schools here, in particular any plans for Ganztagsschulenschools that teach all day rather than just in the morning.

And finally I wanted to see what they had to say about the forthcoming Hessentag, in particular about the lack of information for businesses in the town and my recent attempts to get a permit to enter the closed-off part of the town in order to visit my customers during the event. [Read more…]

The new German coalition

It is almost a month since the elections in Germany, and finally a coalition settlement has been reached between the CDU/CSU and the FDP.

Let’s take a look at what it will mean…

Tax reforms

Tax reforms worth €24bn have been promised (that’s British billions), although they will not happen until 2011.

My thoughts: no rush then to get those in, plenty of time for that to change

Income tax will be reformed, with a more “banded” type of system.

I’m sure I’ve heard that before.  I’m just not sure after which election…

VAT rates look to stay the same, but there will be some changes are to what qualifies for the reduced 7% rate.

Benefits

Child benefit should be going up in 2010 to 184EUR per month for the first and second children, higher for others.

Well that’s something, it went up 10EUR this year, so another 20EUR will be nice, but bear in mind that despite inflation it has otherwise been stuck at 154EUR since the Euro was introduced in 2002!

Health

No immediate changes are planned to the health system, but instead the coalition will wait for recommendations to be made by a Government committee.

Oh great!  So we’re stuck with the Gesundsheitsfond.  I guess there is no chance of paying less into it and the self-employed will still be at a disadvantage when it comes to sick pay.

Ministers

Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) moves from the interior ministry (sort of the Home Office) to the finance ministry (ie. the Treasury).

I find this a strange decision, but it could make a lot of people in the IT world happy.

Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) stays at the family ministry.

I’m sure that many in the IT industry would have liked to see her move as well – along with Herr Schäuble she was awarded the “Big Brother Award” this year because of her policies, which have often been criticised by IT specialists and journalists alike.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) moves from industry to defence.

I don’t get this one, because during the campaign and even after the election, I thought all the parties were “agreed” that he was the right man for the job his was in.  What happened?

Guido Westerwelle (FDP) will be foreign minister and vice-chancellor

No real surprise here.  The foreign minister is an important role in the German Government, and being vice-chancellor at the same time will probably give him the power to take decisions at high-level meetings without Frau Merkel.  Will she be spending more time in Germany now?

There are also many new ministers that I do not (yet) know much about, or even have an opinion on.

So is it good for Germany?

It’s too early to say.  With so many fresh faces in the cabinet I’m hoping that there will finally be some movement on issues that were just forgotten under the previous Government.  On the other hand, I have a feeling that the new one might just be taking things a little to relaxed, announcing plans now that will not come to fruition for another 15 months.

Or are they just taking things slowly to make sure they get new laws right the first time?

Anything is possible in German politics

… or so it would seem.  After the recent general elections (Bundestagswahl) we can expect to have a so-called “black and yellow coalition” in power.

The colours refer to the CDU and FDP parties, who are not actually so far apart in many of their policies, but still have a lot of debating to do until they agree on everything.

What worried me a little bit was a comment that I heard on the radio a few days ago, that “all topics are open to discussion”.  I would have expected that some topics did not need to be discussed, and it reminded me of the last round of coalition talks 4 years ago, where the CDU and SPD discussed raising the VAT rate.  One party wanted to raise it by 1%, the other did not want to raise it at all, and in the end they agreed on 3%!

Over the next few weeks the parties – including the CSU as well – will thrash out their policies and come up with a contract by which they will theoretically govern the country for the next 4 years.  I am wondering how much they will undo the work of the previous CDU/SPD coalition, and in particular how many policies will be agreed upon, that neither party had in their manifesto during the election campaign.

Scrapping the Gesundheitsfond would be a good start…

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