BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble launched a scathing attack on his Social Democrat (SPD) rivals’ tax plans on Tuesday, calling their promises “poison”, three months before a parliamentary election.
Emphasising that Europe’s largest economy was growing strongly and adding jobs, Schaeuble, who has been finance minister since 2009, said September’s vote was an opportunity for voters to say who was best placed to continue Germany’s sound stewardship.
“These elections are not about the achievements of the past,” he told a meeting of the conservative Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) economic council. “They are about who we can trust with the best recipes for the coming years.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU holds a comfortable poll lead, but the SPD hopes to close the gap by promising to use capital taxes to finance a drive to reduce inequality. Schaeuble used his speech to representatives of German business to warn of the dangers of this approach.
“The investment rate in Germany is not as high as it should be. Whoever leads a debate on redistribution is leading a debate that doesn’t improve but harms investment,” he said to applause from hundreds of party and business representatives.
“We don’t need working groups to know that reintroducing capital taxes would be poison for Germany as an investment location in a globalised economy,” he said. “We need to make sure the state remains effective without consuming an ever greater share of gross domestic product.”
Schaeuble said Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president were some of the biggest challenges facing the continent, repeating his calls for deeper fiscal cooperation to match the euro zone’s monetary union.
But said helping to stabilise Africa would be Europe’s greatest challenge in coming decades. If it fails, it could face a migration crisis that would dwarf the one experienced in 2015, when more than a million migrants arrived on Europe’s southern shores, he warned.
Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Joseph Nasr; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Hugh Lawson