Austria has prepared for the general elections under cloudy economic forecast. Austrian economists find it difficult to be heard in politics. Maybe that’s because they’re off the beaten track. That applies at least to the Wifo Institute for Economic Research, the largest think tank in the country. The squat concrete building near the new Vienna Central Station has nothing in common with the sophisticated city palace in the city center. A secluded purpose-built building, which is also on a former military site, the “Arsenal”. The Museum of Military history is not far down the street.
“I’ve never been there, but I like the motto of the house: The war belongs in the museum”, says Christoph Badelt. The highly decorated economics professor Christoph Badelt is the current director of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research and professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Badelt and his team are producing the growth forecasts for Austria, and they look much worse this year than they did in the past. This has nothing directly to do with the end of the black-blue coalition, which was able to swim on a wave of boom. But the cooling of the economy coincides with the elections and the change of government, and that worries the professional.
“The taxes are not as abundant as they used to be, that narrows the scope of the next government”, said Badelt. “The danger is great that the pace of reform will subside”. From an economic point of view, one must worry, that after the elections, a constellation arises, with nothing more moves. Who wants to make unpopular reforms when the economy revolves?
Interestingly, these approaches are found in almost all parties of Austria, in each election program, new taxes are proposed. From a liberal point of view, therefore, the question is not which party come to power on Sunday, but what wings prevail. In the OVP and the SPO there are enough redistributors who could find together in the Greens anyway. And the allegedly “free” FPO is much closer to the left in social policy and its orientation towards the “little people” than the conservative business circles in the OVP, who prevailed in the past government.
“No one takes overall responsibility”
Badelt praises that in the black-blue government there were correct approaches to austerity policy: the budget is balanced, some debts were repaid, there were first reductions in taxes and social security contributions. But then broke the coalition in May due to Ibiza affair, a transitional government under the non-party Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein took over the business, since then many reforms got stuck.
“Every parliamentary club enforces what its stakeholders have always wanted, with the majority in the National Council”, said Badelt. In general, the 68-year-old economics professor observes that the policy shies away from making uncomfortable decisions in Austria and to turn the head: “Those responsible do not dare to tackle the unpopular and to take something away from people so that they have enough in the future”.