Life in Germany is becoming more and more expensive – from shopping to refueling to heating. The inflation rate was almost eight percent. People have been struggling to keep their budget.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner has asserted that the fight against inflation is the top priority. However, there is not much the government can do to combat the causes of the expensive prices.
Politicians like to see themselves in the role of the energetic doer. Inflation is high? Then we cut a few subsidies, change a few laws and inflation subsides. But unfortunately, says the Dresden economist Joachim Ragnitz, this does not work. The Politicians can hardly do anything about the current inflation: “The high inflation rates we have are determined by factors that are outside the political sphere of influence. Above all, the supply chain problem and everything that has to do with Ukraine – such as rising energy costs, which are reflected there – cannot be solved by politics,” says Ragnitz.
As long as goods for half the world are stuck in China, as long as energy remains scarce because Europe deliberately refrains from Russian oil and gas supplies, inflation will remain. The FDP’s budget spokesman, Otto Fricke, also admits that the government’s options are limited: “If you were to say that we are trying to lower prices in general, for example by lowering VAT, then this means that the moment the tax is raised again later, inflation is back.”
Possibilities of the ECB
And yet there is one institution that has an influence on inflation: the European Central Bank (ECB). If it raises its key interest rates, it would be more attractive to invest money. Then the demand for goods would fall and with it the increase in prices.
However, the effect is not immediate, says Reint Gropp from the Halle Institute for Economic Research: “Just because the ECB raises interest rates, energy prices do not fall. At least not directly. Moreover, supply chains will not be improved by the ECB raising interest rates.” It is not so clear that the ECB’s toolkit – above all raising interest rates and stopping bond purchases – is now of any use.
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No targeted measures against inflation
Gropp also sums up: The decisive problem is the lack of supply – for goods, for energy. The Federal Government could hardly influence both. However, it can give money to people who are in social distress due to rising prices: “It is important to avoid the watering can.” However, it is precisely such measures that have been decided in part. A reduction in the tax on gasoline would benefit everyone – even those who might not need it at all. “That’s just not targeted. This means that we are wasting a lot of money,” explains Gropp.
Economic researcher Ragnitz also argues that the government is currently not acting precisely. The fuel discount would perhaps help many motorists a bit. It is not even clear how much prices will really fall as a result. Because the discount in turn leads to more demand. “All these measures that are currently being taken are pure populism and that has no effect at all,” says Ragnitz.
The question remains: What helps against inflation? The answer in a few sentences: If production all over the world were to return to normal, if the transport of goods ran smoothly again, that would help. If Europe had plenty of energy available again, it would probably bring even more. But until then, it won’t get any cheaper.