Author Archives: Webmanager

Europäische Wirtschaftsregierung – Kampfbegriff oder föderale Vision?

„European Monetary Union“ oder „Economic and Monetary Union“?

Schon lange wird die EU von vielen als Projekt wirtschaftlicher Integration wahrgenommen. Wohl nicht nur aus diesem Grund forderten linke Europapolitiker/-innen erst im vergangenen Europa-Wahlkampf als vermeintlichen Ausgleich das „Soziale Europa“. Nach den großen Vertragsänderungen zur Einführung der Einheitlichen Europäischen Akte (Mitte der 1980er) und dem Maastricht Vertrag (Anfang der 1990er) fragt man sich heute allerdings, warum wir auf einmal so tun, als sei eine „Europäische Wirtschaftsregierung“ etwas Neues. Haben wir nicht schon lange eine europäische Wirtschaftspolitik, die gerade auf europäischer Ebene gestaltet wird? Und hat diese Wirtschaftspolitik etwa keine „Regierung“?

Europäische Wirtschaftsregierung heute ist vielfältig – und inkonsequent

Wer glaubt, wir würden beim Thema Wirtschaftsregierung in der EU bei Null anfangen, scheint die EU nicht zu verstehen. Schon heute gestaltet die EU zentrale wirtschaftliche Fragestellungen über den Binnenmarkt, die Verbraucher- und Umweltpolitik, über den Energiemarkt, über den Handel, über sensible Politiken wie Landwirtschaft und Fischerei aber auch über die Wirtschaftsförderung („Regional- oder Kohäsionspolitik“). Hier besitzt die EU besondere Kompetenzen, während Continue reading

Poor results of budget transparency around the world

Over the last year I have been working on one of the most interesting global transparency projects – the Open Budget Index. A few weeks back the final results have finally been published after our lengthy review process. Unfortunately, these results shed a disappointing light on government approaches around the globe: 74 of our 94 countries surveyed fail to meet basic transparency standards! This means that normal citizens cannot obtain even the most basic information on their national budgets. Find more information on the findings on the project website.

With the index we look at 123 indicators in public budgets and primarily check the availability of key budget documents like the executive’s annual budget proposal as well as the quality of the data they include. Other questions are concerned with access to documents, the openness and involvement of legislatures or the quality of other budget institutions like auditors. 91 of these indicators make it into the final score. You can find the ranking of all 94 countries here.

Three findings are particularly interesting I think: Firstly, the state of budget transparency does not rely on a country’s state of economic development. South Africa as the overall top scorer illustrates this best. Secondly, the ‘resource curse’ is a phenomenon we tend to support with our findings. Countries highly dependent on hydrocarbons also have lower scores in our index. Thirdly, with data over three periods now (2006, 2008, 2010 – and 2012 beginning to be in the making) we can observe that budget transparency is not a static process and that in particularly countries with poor or mediocre performances do start to move. Countries like Liberia or Mongolia have shown a positive and strong upward trend thanks to clear political leadership. Others like Fiji, following a coup, show a downward trend. This, if nothing else, shows very clearly, how budget transparency is a political process and many governments around the world can and need to do much more to empower their citizens when it comes to the most important policy document of any country – its budget.

Rich data sets with answers to all questions are available for further research. You can obtain them either from the website or through me or the facilitators at IBP in Washington DC. We are grateful for any hints on anyone who researches or works on budget transparency. Do get in touch!

Never forget to pay your bills in Singapore

Some say Singaporeans are greedy, some say they are bureaucratic and some that they are uber-honest. I think this is all crap stereotyping (as if the Germans would be orderly… or the Indians talkative…). But here is a warning from the Singapore university library of what happens if you do not settle your fines (no matter what amount!):

Blogs and news on the EU budget

The budget review has sparked some fresh and good debate on the future of the EU’s budget. A couple of blogs have been opened recently to contribute to this debate and they are probably the best place to gather information over what is going on. Here comes an overview:

LowCarbonBudget.eu by the UK’s Green Alliance. Focuses on the ‘green’ side of the budget but has very competent staff behind and also up-to-date information on general developments.

Budget in Perspective by the German Foreign Ministry. This blog is curently in beta status and will present contributions from known experts, academics and obviously some German officials. It has a useful press overview Continue reading

German elections today: Green prime minister

There is currently so much dynamics in German politic that I thought I put this into perspective for my international friends.

Chancelor Angela Merkel is obviously known abroad and what I find interesting is that her leadership is not questioned too much in international media. However, if we had elections in Germany this Sunday, the politics of the country would take a pretty big turn. According to the latest poll, the most likely outcome would be a government led by the Green Party!

How crazy is this, you might (rightly) wonder!?

Let me try to explain this in short. The weird thing that happened after the last election in September (just a year ago) is that the new government of the Christian-Democrats (CDU & CSU) and ‘Liberals’ (FDP) got a pretty decent majority in the Bundestag (main chamber) and also held a convincing majority in the Bundesrat (upper chamber comprised of state/Lander governments). Everyone was expecting that these two parties would go into some brave economic reform. Pustekuchen Continue reading

Wir gestalten unsere Zukunft europäisch – Grüner Aufruf

Europa in der Krise. Man mag in diesen Monaten sarkastisch antworten wollen: Schon wieder oder immer noch? Die europäische Bilanz der letzten Jahre scheint wirklich mager zu sein: Vertrag von Lissabon formerly known als Europäische Verfassung? Gerade mal mit Ach und Krach über die Ziellinie gerettet! Weltweiter Vorreiter im Klimaschutz? Das war einmal! Friedensmacht? Nationale Sprache scheint wichtiger als gemeinsamer Auswärtiger Dienst! Handlungsfähiger Akteur zur Bewältigung der Finanz- und Wirtschaftskrise? Im nationalstaatlichen Klein-Klein weitgehend zerredet! Kein Wunder also, dass das Vertrauen in die politischen Institutionen – auf allen Ebenen – rasant schwindet.

Die EU und ihre 27 Mitgliedstaaten stolpern offenbar von einer ausweglosen Situation in die nächste. Und doch ist die Frage berechtigt, ob Europa wirklich stärker in der Krise steckt als sonst. Auf und Abs haben die europäische Integration seit der Nachkriegszeit geprägt. Schon 1956 sprach der damalige Bundeskanzler Adenauer von der „Europäischen Not“ und dem Umstand, dass die Europäer sich nur zu einigen Konferenzen aufmühen können und gemeinsames Handeln eher die Ausnahme als die Regel sei. Ist das Krisengerede also alles nur Hysterie?

Nein, im Gegenteil! Denn im letzten Jahrhundert trieb eine gemeinsame Vision die Zusammenarbeit voran: Zukünftige Kriege durch eine verstärkte europäische Zusammenarbeit für immer zu verhindern. Heute hingegen geht es den Regierungsoberhäuptern primär um den eigenen Machterhalt. Der europäische Geist ist zum Mittel für die eigene Inszenierung verkommen. Anders als 1956 befinden sich die Europäische Union und ihre Mitgliedsstaaten in einer Identitätskrise, die wie ein Damoklesschwert über jeder (natürlichen) Alltagskrise hängt. Jedes europäische Tief wird damit gleich zur europäischen Sinnkrise. Verfassungskrise, Demokratiekrise, Finanzkrise – man schlittert mit Vollgas auf den Abgrund zu bis im letzten Moment doch noch jemand den europäischen Geist beschwört. Gut gehen wird das nicht mehr lange. Daher ist es Zeit, das Kind beim Namen zu nennen.

“Generation Kleingeister”

Das Kind nennt sich „Generation Kleingeister“. Schaut man sich heute in Europa um Continue reading

The schizophrenia of some business leaders

In my reading for a paper on voluntary environmental stewerdship I have  come across this classic article by Milton Friedman “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Proft” (New York Times Magazine, 1970). The following passage reminds me of many of Germany’s industrial barons from the old dirty industries who tend to be overrepresented in industrial associations and politics:

I have been impressed time and again by the schizophrenic character of many businessmen. They are capable of being extremely far-sighted and clear-headed in matters that are internal to their businesses. They are incredibly short-sighted and muddle-headed in matters that are outside their businesses but affect the possible survival of business in general. This short-sightedness is strikingly exemplified in the calls from many businessmen for wage and price guidelines or controls or income policies. There is nothing that could do more in a brief period to destroy a market system and replace it by a centrally controlled system than effective governmental control of prices and wages.

Eating out and food in Singapore

Ok. Today is a special day. I could write a comment about some Florida idiots who wanted to burn books some consider holy – or the reactions to this. But all these crazies on either side really deserve no further attention. It is time to start writing about Singapore. And what could be more important than religious debates? – Something that is more visible in Singapore than politics. Something that is big story in Singapore. Food.

One of the first things you read in any travel guide about Singapore is its focus on food. Or should I say obsession? Given the lack of what us westerners would regard as classical or traditional culture, this special place Singapore is surely building some of its culture around food. And food comes in many particular ways here. Lesson one: food (like so many other products here) is not big here because it is grown in Singapore but because locals (and probably even more immigrants) have been skilled to make the best of varieties of influence from all around the south east asian region (and beyond). Thanks to these diverse cultural influences food is big here. And it is diverse. You can probably generalise and say that the Singaporean kitchen is composed of the same ethnic influence as its society overall: Chinese, Malaysian and Indian. On top of that you have the hard-to-avoid American Continue reading

Merkels Atompolitik jetzt attackieren

Gestern kam es zum Showdown der Bundesregierung beim Thema Atomenergie. Ausnahmsweise scheint es nach Monaten des Streits dazu einmal Einigkeit unter den drei Koalitionspartnern gegeben zu haben. Wie Spiegel Online zu entnehmen ist, sieht die “Loesung” vor, den weichen Atomkompromiss von Rot-Grün noch einmal zu verwässern. SpOn fasst die Eckpunkte wie folgt zusammen:

• Ältere Kernkraftwerke sollen eine längere Laufzeit von 8 Jahren erhalten
• Jüngere Meiler bekommen sogar ein Plus von 14 Jahren
• Stromkonzerne sollen Öko-Energie mit 15 Milliarden Euro unterstützen.

Wenn alle Parteien, die es mit ihrer Kritik an der Atomenergie ernst meinen, wirklich ein Zeichen setzen wollen, dann müssen sie nicht nur “Verfassungsklage” brüllen, sondern klar sagen, was sie nach einer eventuellen Machtübernahme, die ja spätestens 2013 stattfinden wird, tun werden.

Auf Grund der Schwere des Vertrauensbruchs durch die Energiekonzerne (man führe sich noch einmal deren Continue reading

France and German tax systems, EU cooperation

After visiting German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, French budget minister Francois Baroin comes up with some weird comments on Franco-German tax cooperation and the EU budget according to the EUobserver. Firstly, he recognises a broad consensus for deficit reduction in Germany. Apparently the impression most people have of France is that they like to run excessive budget deficits and do not have their budget in order. What is interesting here is that this picture of stark contrast is not really met in reality. France – just like Germany – has the highest credit ratings (i.e. paying the lowest rates on its debt because people see long-term value and not a debt swamp). Its business cycle broadly matches the German over the last 10-20 years but with obvious short-term divergences as we can witness these months. At the same time the French budget system itself is much more modern than the German, having Continue reading