SMEs disappointed by traffic lights: "There will be excess mortality among companies"

The head of the BVMW association of medium-sized companies sees no help for small and medium-sized companies in the relief announced by the traffic light.

SMEs disappointed by traffic lights: "There will be excess mortality among companies"

The head of the BVMW association of medium-sized companies sees no help for small and medium-sized companies in the relief announced by the traffic light. "It's not a relief package, it's a redistribution package," says Markus Jerger in an interview with ntv.de. The program for energy-intensive companies, for example, is as helpful "as trying to keep someone dying of thirst alive with a single drop". Jerger expects bankruptcies to increase.

ntv.de: Chancellor Scholz said that the federal government would "leave no one alone". Do medium-sized companies feel that they are sufficiently supported with the relief package?

Markus Jerger: No. This is not a relief package, it is a redistribution package. The weak are relieved and supported, and that's a good thing. But there is nothing for the economy - at most small crumbs.

To what extent are the rising energy prices noticeable for medium-sized companies?

Of course, the more gas and electricity a company needs, the more noticeable the prices are. First of all, of course, there is the entire metalworking industry, the porcelain industry, the glass industry, as well as the larger medium-sized manufacturing companies. But we must not forget that many companies that heat their offices with gas are also affected by energy prices - this is an extreme burden, as is the case with private households.

The coalition's resolution states that the federal government will launch a program for energy-intensive companies that cannot pass on the increase in their energy costs.

This affects 9,000 companies - out of three and a half million! Because that only applies to particularly energy-intensive companies, it doesn't help the economy as a whole. It's like trying to keep someone dying of thirst alive with a single drop.

What about the postponement of the higher CO2 price and the liquidity support that the federal government wants to extend?

If the liquidity support continues, that is very good and important. During this time, we cannot take back decisions that have already been made. But that is no further relief. The postponement of the new CO2 pricing by one year is also not a relief, but a shifted burden - to call this relief is a joke!

The basic question with liquidity aids is how high they are and how quickly you can get hold of them. The problem with the Corona bridging aid was that the companies had to wait four or five months for the funds to be paid out. Incidentally, the fact that all this takes so long is also a problem with the special bonuses of up to 3,000 euros, which the federal government wants to exempt from taxes and duties.

In what way?

Suppose an entrepreneur has ten employees and wants to give everyone a special bonus of 3000 euros. Then he has to withdraw liquidity of 30,000 euros from his company. However, this sum will only be deductible in the next tax return. That's no help for the many small and medium-sized companies that are already under pressure. It will be much more impossible to cash out the special bonus.

Does the announced electricity price cap help medium-sized companies?

There is still too much unclear. Our demand is that the VAT on gas, electricity and fuel be drastically reduced, because these are the costs that weigh on medium-sized businesses and the economy as a whole. Now it is to be reduced from 19 to 7 percent for gas - that is not enough, as energy costs have doubled or tripled in many cases.

What are you requesting?

We need broad relief in all areas. This starts with taxes and ends with the purification of a bureaucracy that has gotten completely out of control. In companies, we have annual costs of 50 billion euros for bureaucratic compliance. The state adds another 40 to 60 billion. And if it were only 10 percent: There are great relief options that would help the economy, especially small companies, tremendously. If companies were to be relieved across the board, then we could also cope with the higher energy costs for a while. And relief must come quickly. It is similar to an illness: the right treatment does not help if it comes too late. The federal government must be much faster.

Is the current situation comparable to the Corona crisis?

We treat the topic of the energy crisis in a similar way to Corona - we follow graphs of gas deliveries, storage levels and market prices like we did with the seven-day incidence and hospital occupancy. But fundamentally, the energy price and the resulting crisis are not comparable to Corona. With Corona, the major burden was the loss of staff and, especially in service companies, the loss of sales. At the moment it is the liquidity of the companies.

Are you expecting a wave of bankruptcies?

The wave of bankruptcies might be an exaggeration, but there will be a kind of excess mortality among companies, i.e. more insolvencies than usual, because many companies not only have high energy prices, but also high raw material procurement costs, higher minimum wages and because logistics costs are currently having an enormous impact.

Hubertus Volmer spoke to Markus Jerger

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