PPoliticians who preach water look bad with wineglasses in hand. In this respect, it is only logical that the federal government’s chief water preacher, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), is now expecting something sobering from his own house: he wants to cancel the long-planned expansion of the Ministry of Finance. The “Bild” newspaper quoted him on Tuesday as saying that in view of the high national debt he was considering desirable but not necessary projects. “I am therefore questioning the planned new building of the Ministry of Finance.” A spokesman for the ministry said that Lindner had already arranged for the previous plans to be reviewed last week. The interpretation of the “Bild” newspaper that Lindner is therefore doing without his “Protz-Bau” was spread by him on Twitter.
However, the plans for the building did not come from Lindner, but from the time of his predecessor in office, today’s Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). The idea was to accommodate employees in the new building opposite the ministry’s headquarters, who were previously spread across six other locations. The ministry announced at the time that the “organizational and technical processes” were to be optimized. In addition, new, modern conference rooms were planned, and space was to be made for the Federal Finance Academy. In addition, there should be residential units for their participants, as well as a conference center and a canteen. The start of construction was planned for 2025. Cost point: 322 million euros.
But as is the case with plans, reality often gets in the way. The Ministry is now assuming significantly higher construction costs. It estimates 600 to 800 million euros. The 35 million that have already been incurred for planning seem bearable in view of this impending additional burden. The money is also used elsewhere. The government has been arguing about the budget for weeks, and each department is arguing as fundamentally as possible: money for the children, the climate, the fight alongside Ukraine. In contrast, the optimization of organizational processes and a new dining room appear to be marginal.
Lindner kills three birds with one stone
In addition, the work processes have changed in the course of the corona pandemic; many civil servants have taken a liking to working from home, and many office doors in the ministry’s corridors have signs reading ‘home office’. According to Lindner, 65 percent of the people in the Ministry of Finance work from home or on the go. This corresponds to the canteen quota there: Before the pandemic, around a thousand meals were served every day, now there are around 450.
With his decision, Lindner kills three birds with one stone. First, he saves money. Second, it signals pragmatism. According to the ministry spokesman, in the course of reviewing the construction plans, he is also checking whether apartments could be built instead of a new administration building. After all, they are urgently needed. The test has been started but not yet completed. Third, Lindner sends a signal to Chancellor Scholz. He wants to persuade him to call off the new building of the Chancellery. However, that might be difficult.
Because the expansion of the government headquarters was planned seven years ago. The additional requirement of 400 offices calculated by Chancellor Angela Merkel at the time was only confirmed last September. The preparatory work has begun, the excavators are already in motion, but above all: Trees have already been felled. Construction is due to start later this year.
If Lindner takes the crisis as an argument not to build a new building, the opposite argument applies in the Chancellery. “The realization of the extension building is necessary because there is a need for a functional government headquarters, especially in times of crisis,” said deputy government spokesman Wolfgang Büchner on Monday. If the project to build a new chancellery were to be stopped, more than 100 million euros would already be due. Büchner concluded: “A stop of the project or a rescheduling is not planned for the reasons mentioned.”
Leave a Reply