Debate amid 2020 budget proposal

Despite the country's weak economy, Finance Minister plans to maintain a balanced budget focusing on labor and social issues.

Debate amid 2020 budget proposal

Berlin (dpa) - German parliamentarians started on Tuesday to debate their country's budget for 2020, amid opposition criticism of Finance Minister Olaf Scholz's proposal to spend nearly 360 billion euros (398 billion dollars).

Scholz, who is also vice chancellor, plans to maintain a balanced budget despite the country's flagging economy. His proposal puts an emphasis on labour and social issues, as well as relief for low-income families.

"This is about having an affordable life for families in this country that they can shape themselves," Scholz said at the start of the parliamentary debate, underlining the importance of "cohesion" in German society.

His proposal does not yet include spending on new environmental measures that the German government is due to decide on September 20. There have been calls for new debt to finance the measures, an idea that has been rejected by Scholz and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tax income could also fall because of the economic downturn. At the federal, state and municipal level, "tax revenues could be around 10 billion euros lower in both 2020 and 2021 than had been expected in May," Jens Boysen-Hogrefe of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy told the Handelsblatt newspaper.

The opposition is, meanwhile, calling for higher investments in education and infrastructure.

Christian Duerr, parliamentary leader of the pro-business FDP party, spoke on Monday of "a budget of broken promises," while the parliamentary leader of the hard-left Die Linke party, Dietmar Bartsch, called it a "standstill budget."