Germany Plans More Austerity Measures: Report
Germany plans further spending cuts worth up to 6 billion euros ($7.9 billion)in order to achieve its target of a structurally balanced budget in 2014, a newspaper said on Friday, quoting finance ministry sources.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition, which faces an election in the autumn, has championed the cause of budget discipline to overcome the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis and aims to balance its own books next year, two years earlier than a previous target.
The Rheinische Post daily said Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble would seek savings of 5-to-6 billion euros in addition to spending cuts already planned.
"If we want to reach a so-called structurally balanced budget in 2014 we have to close a gap of around 5 billion euros," the paper quoted a senior member of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), Michael Meister, as saying.
"This will come about only through spending cuts," he added making clear tax increases were not on the agenda.
The paper said the axe would fall across all ministries and would also affect subsidies for the health care system.
The finance ministry last month denied a report in Der Spiegel news magazine that Schaeuble planned cuts in social spending and hikes in value-added tax to balance the budget.
Opposition Social Democrats (SPD) have accused Schaeuble of concealing additional austerity plans until after a regional election on January 20 in Lower Saxony state where polls show Merkel's CDU may lose power to the SPD and Greens.
Merkel will seek a third four-year term in office in federal elections expected in September.
The government's budget for 2013 envisages new net borrowing of 17.1 billion euros, down from an earlier target of 18.8 billion euros and some 11 billion less than in 2012.
Strong economic growth, buoyant tax revenues and lower unemployment have helped Germany, Europe's biggest economy, to reduce its borrowing despite the ongoing euro zone crisis, though at 81.5 percent of gross national product German public debt remains well above the EU's 60 percent ceiling.