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German economy is in 'troubled waters' - ministry

The German economy is facing significant challenges, as stated by Economy Minister Robert Habeck.
Growth projections for 2024 have been heavily reduced from 1.3% to just 0.2%, teetering on stagnation without entering a recession. Habeck has previously described the economic condition as "dramatically bad."

The economy, Europe's largest, has been particularly impacted by unforeseen circumstances following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, given its reliance on Russian gas and global trade. Germany's labor shortage, exacerbated by insufficient migrant workers, is also a major concern for its economic stability.

Despite the steep increase in energy costs and the associated rise in inflation after the invasion, the Bundesbank has hinted that Germany could be in a recession, with a slight economic contraction in 2023 and a 0.3% decrease in the final quarter. The central bank suggests that minor economic declines could persist into early 2024, risking a technical recession.

However, there is a cautious optimism for recovery as inflation rates drop, unemployment remains low, and energy costs decrease. Despite challenges, Germany has successfully transitioned from Russian gas dependency, possibly stimulating wage growth and consumer demand in some sectors.

Nevertheless, business sentiment is generally negative, with some industry experts like André Kasimir, a construction firm owner, suggesting Germany is becoming "the sick man of Europe."

High interest rates, labor shortages, and excessive bureaucracy have led to a construction crisis, with a significant rise in sector insolvencies and severe difficulties in initiating new housing projects.

Kasimir and other business leaders criticize the government for being ineffective in simplifying construction processes and regulations. Political disputes are also harming the economy, with arguments over a new economic stimulation law, offering tax breaks and reduced bureaucracy, which is currently stalled in the upper house of Parliament.

The governing coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz faces internal disagreements and low public approval. Divisions over fiscal policy—between the Green Party's pro-infrastructure spending stance and the finance ministry's push for austerity—further compound the uncertainty surrounding Germany's economic direction, according to Professor Stefan Kooths from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

Public discontent with political leadership is palpable in Berlin, with residents expressing the need for Germany to catch up with global economies like China.

The disenchantment extends to foreign students like Elmedina from Kosovo, who are reconsidering their futures in Germany due to limited job prospects.
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