Programs for the big jolt

Good morning dear readers,

We move cautiously into this 2021. It is not a year of resolutions, it is a year of great sentences. What do the otherwise usual goals at these times count, to have a juice day about once a week, also to leave the e-cigarette or to go back to the neighborhood club? Completely different questions are touched these days: How much freedom do we still have with how much security? How are the benefits distributed in fighting a pandemic and what are the resulting costs? Do we believe in globalization again – after the nightmare in orange in the White House? What will become of societies in which global corporations replace entire markets?

Anyone looking for answers is doing well to stick to the US philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson right now: “Fear defeats more people than anything else in the world.”

Handelsblatt editor-in-chief Sebastian Matthes calls for a future strategy for the German economy in his large essay.

(Foto: dpa picture alliance, ddp, imago)

Editor-in-chief Sebastian Matthes calls for a determined, completely fearless future program in his large essay on page one: While the USA and China already provided large parts of the operating system for our everyday lives, “Europeans sleepwalk there,” he says. According to Matthes, Germany, “the land of three times the number of forms”, has not even managed to digitize its administrations. He titled his serve “Get out of the standstill”, saying that Germany had concentrated on the past for too long. His demand on the future federal government: It would have to develop a strategy for the industry of the future “that is a little more well thought-out than what Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier quickly wrote down at home”.

NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet and his sidekick on the CDU summit expedition, Jens Spahn, see themselves as candidates for such authorship. (Who, despite all the Corona contradictions, has matured into Germany’s most popular politician.) The two of them have now submitted a first course-setting paper under “# impulse2021” within the party. Among the ten points, economy plays the key role, be it in the desired advancement of an ecological-social market economy, in stimulating with low tax rates in structurally weak regions, a “burden moratorium” for companies or in calling for a “digital ministry that deserves its name”. The beautiful So-ich-ich-number-one construction kit has only one small disadvantage: Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen have not entirely unjustified hopes for the digital CDU party conference on January 16.

How much time is pressing, all pretenders of the Union can read about the Liberal Werner Hoyer in the Handelsblatt interview. The President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) warns of a loss of importance for Europe: “We’re not catching up, we’re falling behind.”

The “strategic independence of Europe in the world” is decisive – for this the continent must first catch up with the USA and Asia. According to Hoyer, the success story of the internal market must finally be continued. The conversation can also be read as an advertisement for one’s own financial institution, which is urgently waiting for new operations.

But how will 2021 be? One can speculate about that in the most beautiful way. There are a couple of things that go into that “Almost absolute certainty” category belong:

  • Angela Merkel no longer gives a New Year’s address and the SPD is regenerating itself in the opposition.
  • “Jamaica” will become reality after the federal election in September – unlike 2017 – garnished with Christian Lindner’s hint that Merkel is no longer there.
  • A pan-European bank merger with the German bank or the Commerzbank is no longer just mouse-gray theory.
  • FC Bayern Munich is aiming for the tenth German soccer championship in a row this autumn.

In the Category “not entirely unlikely” the following points apply:

  • Markus Söder and Robert Habeck will compete in the “Chancellor candidate TV duel”.
  • Joe Biden comes to Germany with a Trump reparation package.
  • At VW Herbert Diess said goodbye with eulogies for his future-oriented development work.
  • The German share index reaches almost 15,000 points in one day.
  • The number of Germans who store vacuum-packed banknotes in bank vaults to ward off penalty interest has reached a new high, although no insurance company insures this anymore.
Due to the corona pandemic, GDP also fell in the fourth quarter of 2020.

From the point of view of economic researchers, it is inevitable that Germany will technically fall into a state of recession. After the decline in economic output in the fourth quarter of 2020, the Handelsblatt Research Institute (HRI) expects a decline of four percent for the first three months of 2021. The collapse of the economy in 2020 will be slightly lower than after the financial crisis in 2009, says HRI President Bert Rürup. But as long as the pandemic lasts, the recovery will not be as straightforward as it was back then, but “more like a washboard”. He concluded that we had to be prepared for a “go-and-stop”. Overall, the HRI expects growth of 3.3 percent for 2021 – more than one point less than the federal government.

Another 14 days – until the inauguration of the next US president – Donald Trump has the opportunity to play the role of the bad loser, a desperado in office. The outcome of the November elections does not leave him in peace, especially the result in the US state of Georgia, where challenger Joe Biden won with just 11,779 votes. The “Washington Post” now reports that Trump has harassed the election officer of the state in a one-hour phone call: “I want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” He won in Georgia, said Trump. He urged election officer Brad Raffensperger to check the results again. “But check it out with people who want to find answers.” The compelled, once an early Trump fan, rejected the request – “with all due respect”. But respect is a word for losers in the Trump world.

Instagram star Sophia Thomalla is promoting a new blockchain project alongside the dubious businessman Josip Heit.

(Foto: obs/GSB Gold Standard Banking Corporation AG)

And then there is the actress Sophia Thomallawhich does not attract attention as a participant in a brightly colored TV show, but as an advertising attraction in a video for the blockchain project “G999” of the Hamburg company Gold Standard Banking Corporation (GSB). There she falls from the sky in red patent leather clothes and with red stilettos and plays next to company boss Josip Heit. The man has a certain past, most recently with the Karatbars Group – with whose virtual currency called “Karatgold Coin” investors lost a lot of money, as my colleagues explain in their story. At the end of 2019, the German financial regulator even ordered the unwinding of the cryptocurrency, which was supposedly backed by gold reserves. The Romanian Alex B. can also be seen in a video, who once often accompanied Heit – and whom the Romanian authorities now accuse of helping to force women into prostitution.

Thomalla says she doesn’t know anything about it. She is only certain that the digital currency cannot be stopped. She has been “interested in everything that has to do with blockchain technology for some time”. Maybe Voltaire will help: “One day everything will be fine, that is our hope. Today everything is fine, that is our illusion.”

I wish you a good, solid, hopeful start to this year and this week.

I warmly greet you

Hans-Jürgen Jakobs
Senior Editor

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