EThe BDI actually wanted to look ahead at its annual conference in Berlin. Talking to politicians about innovations and investments, about new growth opportunities after two years of corona misery. “Scaling the New” was the motto that the spotlight cast on the screen of the Verti Music Hall on Tuesday. But first it was about the past, about overcoming mistakes.
The president of Germany’s powerful industrial association settled accounts with the energy policy of the past few years – and also with the habit of many managers to ignore the risks of dependence on this country in view of the cheap energy from Russia. Today we know that this was wrong, said BDI President Siegfried Russwurm. “We skipped the fire brigade because we considered the risk of fire to be negligible. Now it’s on fire.”
The association considers only 1.5 percent economic growth this year to be realistic. This means that the growth forecasts are now rushing down at a similar pace as the prices on the stock exchanges recently. Just a few days ago, the Munich Ifo Institute still considered a 2.5 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) to be achievable, while the federal government recently announced 2.2 percent. So now a 1 before the comma. And even that can only be achieved from the point of view of the BDI if “sufficient” Russian gas continues to flow to Germany. Russwurm didn’t want to say what that means in numbers. However, he made it clear that the 40 percent of the usual level that Russia is still sending through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline does not meet this definition.
Russwurm supports Habeck’s strategy
After a break due to corona, the “Industry Day” took place again for the first time on a larger scale. According to the association, more than 1000 guests had announced their attendance. In the morning there were still many empty seats in the hall bathed in bluish light. The last event of this kind before the outbreak of the pandemic, in the summer of 2019, turned out to be unusually entertaining. The BDI President at the time, Dieter Kempf, accused the then grand coalition of having gambled away the trust of business. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) countered that with the diesel scandal, the auto industry had also destroyed the confidence of politicians. After that there was silence.
Russwurm is a less combative president than Kempf was. He praises the red-green-yellow federal government (“I like the type of interaction”), the strategy of the new Green Federal Minister of Economics, Robert Habeck, not to stop energy imports from Russia all at once, but step by step (“extremely helpful”). Russwurm also finds Habeck’s current decision to use more coal to generate electricity again and at the same time provide financial incentives for industry to save gas “very clever”. On the other hand, he doesn’t think much of considering reducing the temperature in the apartments in winter: “I’m chronically skeptical about telling people what they can do in their private lives.”
Russwurm, on the other hand, avoided the sensitive issue of nuclear power – and kept a low profile when asked about it. An extension of the lifetime of the three existing nuclear power plants had been examined and found to be unrealistic. “I don’t want to question that analysis,” Russwurm said. The operators of the piles would not have done this either. In any case, the time for an extension of the term is running out, “at some point this question will become obsolete”. One thing is clear: the megawatt hours that were lost at the end of the year with the last stage of the nuclear phase-out would have to be compensated for in other ways.