Refugee influx threatens Germany's balanced budget: Schaeuble

13th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble conceded Tuesday that Berlin could miss its goal of achieving a balanced budget next year because of the record migrant influx.

"We want to achieve this without taking on new debt, if possible," said Schaueble.

"They've asked me why I say 'if possible'. But the truth is: I don't know," he told a Berlin congress of machine-tool manufacturers.

Last year -- for the first time since 1969, and a year ahead of plans -- Germany managed to balance its budget, meaning the state did not take on any new debt.

The government under Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes that this will become the norm.

But the unanticipated costs of taking in up to one million asylum-seekers expected this year is going to place an additional burden on the public purse.

The massive influx constituted "a bigger challenge than a lot of things we've had to face in the past 65 years," Schaeuble said, adding that the costs posed "an incredibly large risk potential" for public finances.

Nevertheless, the minister insisted that "we can and will" cope with the challenge.

The government has promised billions of euros in aid to the regional and municipal authorities housing the migrants.

The federal government will pay a flat-rate sum for each asylum-seeker "to put an end to all this wailing" from the local authorities, Schaeuble said.

Germany's hardline stance on budgetary rigour has been criticised by economists and many of the country's eurozone partners, who accuse Berlin of not investing enough.

Germany's KfW Development Bank, meanwhile, said it would boost by one billion euros a special programme to help communities finance refugee shelters with interest-free loans.

An initial 300 million euros set aside in early September had been "exhausted after a few days", as had an additional 200 million euros less than three weeks later, the bank said.

With cold winter temperatures fast approaching, the demand of cities and towns for the loans for refugee housing was "still high", said the KfW.

The Frankfurt-based bank estimated its loans would help create accommodation for up to 100,000 refugees.

Die Welt daily said Tuesday that 42,000 refugees were living in tents or tent-structures across Germany, according to a survey by the newspaper.

© 2015 AFP

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