Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
It was among the 81-billion euro basket of stimulus measures the government put together to soften the impact of the recession and was later copied in many other countries, including the United States.It started out as a 1.5-billion euro scheme but that had to be quickly topped up in the spring as a frenzy swept the country. It gave the economy an important glimmer of hope as gross domestic product contracted by a post-war record 3.5 percent in the first quarter. The government’s heavy-handed intervention did, however, disrupt the free markets — hitting the market for used cars and causing problems for retailers as we pointed out in this story in April.
My colleague Paul Carrel pointed out in an analysis today that the “cash-for-clunkers” scheme helped private consumption in Europe’s biggest economy grow by 0.1 percent in the first half and without the scheme it would have declined 1.0 pecent compared to the first half of 2008.
The Social Democrats led by Vice Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier — pictured here on the left inspecting a new car as it rolls along on the assembly line — have claimed credit for the Abwrackpraemie, saying it was their idea that helped the car industry in Germany and elsewhere with the generous subsidies for new cars for those to junk their older vehicles. That may be the case but voters don’t seem to care: the SPD still trails Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives by about 12 points in opinion polls.
The pressing question now is: What will happen to the car market now? Will demand for cars collapse? Did the “cash-for-clunkers” scheme simply encourage would-be car buyers to pull forward their purchases? Will the market be sucked dry? Or did it help stimulate genuinely new demand from people who otherwise would have held onto their ageing vehicles? Will it prove to be a “Strohfeuer“, a flash in the pan?
But if you’re a German government minister whose party is already facing an uphill battle just two months before a federal election, it’s even worse.
The streets of the Egyptian capital Cairo have been unusually quiet since the start of the month and cabbies say they now drive around in fear of the massive police presence, evident at all major intersections. The big junctions have a police “liwa” on duty — equivalent in rank to an army major-general — along with up to a dozen subordinates enforcing, or perhaps working out how to enforce, a draconian new traffic law.
The newspapers publish daily reports of the number of tickets they have given out the previous day — at least several thousand, for offences such as failing to wear seat belts or stopping beyond the white line at a junction.