Germany has been Europe’s economic engine for decades, pulling the region through one crisis after another. But that resilience is breaking down, and it spells danger for the whole continent, writes Bloomberg.
Decades of flawed energy policy, the demise of combustion-engine cars and a sluggish transition to new technologies are converging to pose the most fundamental threat to the nation’s prosperity since reunification. But unlike in 1990, the political class lacks the leadership to tackle structural issues gnawing at the heart of the country’s competitiveness.
“We’ve been naïve as a society because everything seems fine,” BASF SE Chief Executive Officer Martin Brudermüller told Bloomberg. “These problems we have in Germany are accumulating. We have a period of change ahead of us; I don’t know if everyone realizes this.”
While Berlin has shown a knack for overcoming crises in the past, the question now is whether it can pursue a sustained strategy. The prospect looks remote. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s make-shift coalition has reverted to petty infighting over everything from debt and spending to heat pumps and speed limits as soon as the risks of energy shortfalls eased.
But the warning signals are getting hard to ignore. Despite Scholz telling Bloomberg in January that Germany would ride out Russia’s energy squeeze without a recession this year, data published Thursday show that the economy has in fact been contracting since October and has only expanded twice in the past five quarters.
Economists see German growth lagging behind the rest of the region for years to come, and the International Monetary Fund estimates Germany will be the worst-performing G-7 economy this year.
Germany finds itself ill-suited to sustainably serve the energy needs of its industrial base; overly dependent on old-school engineering; and lacking the political and commercial agility to pivot to faster-growing sectors. The array of structural challenges points to a cold awakening for the center of European power, which has become accustomed to uninterrupted affluence.
To its credit, industrial behemoths like Volkswagen AG, Siemens AG and Bayer AG are flanked by thousands of smaller Mittelstand companies, and the country’s conservative spending habits put it on a stronger fiscal footing than its peers to support the transformation ahead. But it has little time to waste.
The most pressing issue for Germany is getting its energy transition on track. Affordable power is a key precondition for industrial competitiveness, and even before the end of Russian gas supplies, Germany had some of the highest electricity costs in Europe. Failure to stabilize the situation could transform a trickle of manufacturers heading elsewhere into a stampede.
Berlin is responding to concerns by seeking a cap on power prices for some energy-intensive industries like chemicals through 2030 — a plan that could cost taxpayers as much as €30 billion ($32 billion). But that would be a temporary patch, and shows Germany’s desperate situation in terms of supply.
Scholz’s administration aims to hook up roughly 625 million solar panels and 19,000 wind turbines by 2030, but promises to accelerate the rollout to months from years have yet to bear fruit. Meanwhile, demand is expected to soar due to the electrification of everything from heating and transportation to steelmaking and heavy industry.
The bitter reality is that resources for generating that much clean power are limited in Germany by its relatively small coastline and lack of sun. In response, the country is looking to build a vast infrastructure to import hydrogen from the likes of Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia — banking on technology that hasn’t been tested at this scale.
Much of Germany’s wealth and social order rest on a vibrant manufacturing sector that provides well-paid blue-collar jobs. But that strength has led to dangerous dependencies on overseas markets for orders and raw materials — above all China.
Germany needs to address its issues with a long-term program, but that looks questionable. Scholz won the chancellery with the lowest level of support in the postwar era as voters ditched the tradition of handing a clear mandate to either the Social Democrats or the Christian Democrat-led conservative bloc.
With Scholz’s messy three-way coalition racked with bickering, Germany is poised for instability, and the far-right Alternative for Germany has seized on the political vacuum, vying for second in some polls.
In a recent report, the OECD put the scale of the challenges in stark terms: “No major industrialized economy has ever had the very basis of its competitiveness and resilience so systematically challenged by changing social, environmental and regulatory pressures.”
That in turn will ripple across the entire continent, according to Dana Allin, a professor at SAIS Europe. “The health of the German economy is crucial for the broader European economy, and the bloc’s harmony and solidarity,” he said.
What Happens to Employee Insurance Benefits When Bankruptcy Occurs?
Employee health insurance is one of the most crucial aspects of employee benefits packages provided by companies across the globe. It not only plays a pivotal role in attracting and retaining talent but also ensures the well-being and financial security of employees and their families. However, in the ever-changing landscape of the business world, companies may encounter financial challenges, including bankruptcy. This article delves into the significance of employee health insurance and explores what happens to it when bankruptcy occurs.
The Importance of Employee Health Insurance
Employee health insurance, also called group health insurance policy is a valuable benefit that offers a multitude of advantages for both employees and employers. Here’s an in-depth look at why it holds such immense importance:
Attracting and Retaining Talent: In a job market, offering comprehensive health insurance is a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining top talent. Prospective employees often consider health benefits as a significant factor when evaluating job offers. By providing quality healthcare coverage, companies can stand out and build a loyal workforce.
Employee Well-Being: Employee health insurance is fundamentally about safeguarding the well-being of a company’s most valuable asset—its workforce. Access to healthcare ensures that employees can seek medical attention when needed, leading to early diagnosis and treatment of health issues. This not only promotes individual health but also enhances overall productivity.
Financial Security: Medical expenses can be a substantial financial burden, especially for major illnesses or surgeries. Health insurance provides financial security by covering a significant portion of medical costs. It helps employees and their families avoid crippling medical bills and potential debt.
Peace of Mind: Knowing that they have health insurance coverage, employees can focus on their work being worry-free about the financial implications of medical emergencies. This peace of mind contributes to a more engaged and productive workforce.
Preventive Healthcare: Many health insurance plans include coverage for preventive healthcare services such as vaccinations and health check-ups. This encourages employees to prioritize their health and take proactive measures to prevent illnesses.
Tax Savings: In several countries, including the United States, employers may receive tax incentives for providing health insurance to their employees. This further underscores the financial advantages of offering health benefits.
Reduced Absenteeism: When employees have access to healthcare, they are more likely to address health or related issues promptly. This leads to reduced absenteeism, as employees are less likely to take sick days due to untreated illnesses.
What Happens to Employee Health Insurance in Bankruptcy?
While the importance of employee health insurance is undeniable, financial challenges, including bankruptcy, can raise concerns about the fate of these benefits. Here’s an overview of what typically happens to employee health insurance when a company faces bankruptcy:
Immediate Impact on Coverage: Bankruptcy proceedings can have an immediate impact on employee health insurance coverage. In some cases, the company may continue providing coverage during the bankruptcy process, while in others, coverage may be terminated or significantly altered.
Potential Changes in Coverage: Bankruptcy may lead to changes in the structure of health insurance plans offered by the company. These changes could include reduced coverage, higher deductibles, or changes in the network of healthcare providers.
Impact on Retiree Benefits: Companies that provide retiree health benefits may also be affected by bankruptcy. Retiree health benefits can be impacted as the company seeks to restructure its financial obligations.
Notification and Communication: Employers are typically required to notify employees of changes to their health insurance coverage, especially when it involves the termination of coverage. Communication is crucial during bankruptcy proceedings to ensure that employees understand their options and rights.
Legal Obligations: Employers are legally obligated to follow specific regulations and laws when altering or terminating employee health insurance coverage during bankruptcy. Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal consequences.
Impact on Employee Morale: Changes in health insurance coverage, especially those resulting from bankruptcy, can significantly impact employee morale. It’s essential for employers to communicate openly with their employees and provide support and resources to navigate the changes effectively.
Alternatives for Employees: In some cases, employees may need to seek alternative health insurance coverage, such as purchasing individual policies or exploring government-sponsored healthcare programs, depending on their eligibility and the country’s healthcare system.
The Need for Separate Health Insurance In Addition to Having Group Health Insurance
Having a group health insurance plan through your employer is undoubtedly valuable, but there are several compelling reasons why individuals should consider having separate or individual health insurance coverage in addition to the group plan. While group health insurance provides a baseline level of coverage, individual health insurance can offer additional benefits and financial security. Let’s delve into the need for separate health insurance:
Portability: Group health insurance is typically tied to your current employer. If you change jobs or lose your job, you may lose access to your group plan. Having separate health insurance ensures that you have continuous coverage regardless of your employment status. This portability is particularly crucial in today’s dynamic job market.
Customization: Group health plans are designed to cater to the needs of a broad employee base. They may not provide coverage for specific medical conditions, treatments, or medications that you or your family members require. Individual health insurance allows you to customize your coverage to match your unique healthcare needs.
Comprehensive Coverage: Group health plans often have limitations, including caps on certain treatments, exclusions, or restrictions on coverage. Individual health insurance policies tend to offer more comprehensive coverage options, including access to a broader network of doctors and hospitals.
Family Coverage: While group health insurance typically covers the policyholder and often their immediate family members, individual health insurance allows you to tailor coverage for your entire family, including spouse, children, and dependent parents. This ensures that all your loved ones have adequate protection.
Long-Term Security: Group health plans can change from year to year, and the coverage offered by your employer may evolve. With individual health insurance, you have the option to lock in your coverage for a more extended period, providing long-term security and stability for your healthcare needs.
Choice of Insurer: With a group health plan, you have little control over the insurer or the specific plan. In contrast, individual health insurance allows you to choose the insurance company that aligns with your preferences, reputation, and customer service.
Supplementary Coverage: Group plans may have gaps in coverage, such as limited dental, vision, or mental health benefits. Having individual health insurance allows you to supplement these areas with additional policies tailored to your needs.
Coverage During Job Transition: In between jobs or during career changes, there may be gaps in your employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. Having separate health insurance ensures you remain protected during these transitions, preventing lapses in healthcare coverage.
Financial Protection: Group health insurance often comes with cost-sharing arrangements like deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Individual health insurance policies offer various deductible and copayment options, enabling you to select a plan that best suits your budget.
Retirement Planning: As you plan for retirement, individual health insurance can bridge the gap between employer-sponsored coverage and Medicare eligibility. It ensures that you have continuous healthcare coverage throughout your retirement years.
Tax Benefits: In many countries, including the United States, individual health insurance premiums may be tax-deductible, providing potential tax benefits that are not available with group plans.
Tailored Network: Individual health insurance allows you to choose healthcare providers and hospitals that are most convenient or preferred for you. This can be especially important if you have specific medical needs or prefer a particular doctor.
While group health insurance provides valuable coverage, having separate health insurance offers flexibility, customization, and continuity of coverage. It’s essential to assess your unique healthcare needs, budget, and long-term goals to determine if individual health insurance is a necessary addition to your existing group plan. Ultimately, the combination of both group and individual health insurance can provide comprehensive protection and peace of mind for you and your family’s health and financial well-being.
Employee health insurance is a vital component of employee benefits packages, offering numerous advantages for both employees and employers. It ensures the well-being and financial security of employees, promotes a healthier and more engaged workforce, and aids in talent recruitment and retention.
However, in challenging financial times, such as bankruptcy, the fate of employee health insurance can be uncertain. Employers facing financial difficulties must carefully consider the impact of bankruptcy on their employees’ health coverage and adhere to legal obligations and regulations.
Navigating the complexities of bankruptcy and its impact on employee health insurance requires open communication, legal compliance, and a commitment to supporting employees during challenging times. Ultimately, even in the face of bankruptcy, employers should strive to maintain their commitment to the well-being of their workforce to the best of their abilities.
The Financial Dilemma: All You Need To Know About Credit Checking
In personal finance, most people prioritize taking care of their credit scores and raise considerations about credit checking. Simply put, good credit is vital in determining your financial health and access to a broad range of financial services, which is helpful if you’re working on loans, credit cards, or acquiring investment assets like housing and cars.
This article will cover the essential parts of credit checking and credit scores, what it entails, and how it can affect your financial lifestyle.
Understanding Credit Checking
Credit checking, commonly known as a credit score check or credit inquiry, is a process in which banks, lenders, and landlords assess a client’s creditworthiness. It involves a brief assessment of a person’s credit report and score to evaluate their capacity to manage their obligations and repay debts.
Credit checking exists in most cases where an investment or loan is involved, and based on the results of their credit checks, lenders or landlords reserve the right to decline or approve a lease request or loan, which emphasizes the importance of building a good credit score.
Types of Credit Checking
In credit checking, two types of evaluation can affect your credit score, these are:
1. Soft Pull
Soft pulls or soft inquiries are credit checks that don’t impact a person’s credit score when evaluating their creditworthiness. This happens when you typically check your credit reports, ask a potential employer for background checks, or receive pre-approved credit offers from banks or other establishments.
2. Hard Pull
On the other hand, hard inquiries occur when a lender reviews your credit report as part of their approval process, like real estate, getting another credit card, or a loan. Hard inquiries may harm your credit score. Fortunately, it is only temporary, and you can recover from it through suitable financial activities like paying debts or settling accounts.
Credit Score vs. Credit Checking Reports
You might think that credit scores and credit reports are the same. Although closely related, credit scores are a numerical system that evaluates your creditworthiness. In contrast, a credit report or check is a detailed breakdown of your financial activities.
For example, inside your credit report are your recent credit card transactions, pre-approval processes, and recent financial activities that, in turn, reflect your overall credit score.
Considering the information above, you must understand that you know how to read your reports and understand the reason behind your credit scores. After all, self-checking your credit report is free, and you can manage it before lenders or other financial entities can incur a hard pull.
What Makes Credit Checking Important
Your credit score is a tangible representation of your creditworthiness. In other words, it reports how banks and financial institutions can trust you as a responsible borrower. A stern analysis of your credit activities allows you and your bank to work together in making favorable loan or investment programs.
To give you an idea, here’s how credit checks impact your financial well-being in various ways:
Determining your credit score through a hard pull often determines the interest rate you’ll receive in loans and credit card debts. A higher score can lead to favorable terms and lower interest rates, saving you money.
Financial lenders use credit checks as part of their decision-making process. Depending on whether your score is high or low, it may result in denying your application or approving it and proceeding to a curated loan agreement contract.
In housing, landlords are typically more flexible in accepting would-be tenants. A good credit score approves them of their rental request, while a bad one may either outright deny their application or adjust for a higher security deposit instead. Overall, such flexibilities are unique from one property to another and may depend on the state’s housing regulations.
Not all companies do this, but some employers conduct soft credit checks for background checks, especially for positions involving financial management or handling sensitive accounts. After all, why would they hire someone in a financial position with bad financial credit?
Your credit scores affect your payment terms for insurance premiums, especially for home or auto insurance. A lower credit score may result in higher insurance costs. Fortunately, most insurance companies still offer the same policies, so you’d still get the same benefit whether you have a higher or lower credit score.
Given the importance of credit checks and their significant impact on financial well-being, you must manage your finances. The good thing is that you’re always entitled to do a self-credit check on most banks for free and report inaccuracies before settling down to an investment. Nevertheless, your credit is a fundamental aspect of personal finance, and good standing can help you go through most financial decisions and secure your future.
Blame the BRICS for the de-dollarization
“De-dollarizing” the world economy could have dangerous consequences for the United States. The BRICS alliance — originally comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — took a major step toward flexing its communal currency muscle at its recent summit in South Africa, writes ‘The New York Post’.
Six new members joined the organization — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates — in an effort to reduce the dollar’s decades-long dominance and end its use as the preferred payment for the one commodity that still dominates global trade: oil.
The dollar’s role as the world’s key reserve currency is the foundation for America’s global leadership.
Most crucially, at a time of unprecedented global conflict, diminishing the dollar’s importance would allow rogue nations such as Iran and Russia to become immune to sanctions in response to geopolitical bad behavior.
Lower demand for the currency might make exports cheaper but it will also reduce the dollar’s purchasing power and undermine confidence in its stability.
As the BRICS summit made clear, the block’s leverage in the oil market has never been greater.
This has given them unprecedented power to finally replace the dollar on the global energy markets with their own domestic currencies.
Take a close look at the selective approach the alliance used to expand its membership.
While the bloc did not provide details about specific admissions criteria, the selection is clearly energy-centric.
Only six out of more than 40 applicant nations were accepted this year — with sizable economies such as Turkey and Indonesia conspicuously left out.
The anti-Western alliance now has six of the world’s top oil producers – Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Brazil, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.
It’s also home to two of the world’s largest oil importers – China and India.
Although 90% of oil trades are currently conducted in dollars, an increasing number are being handled in Chinese yuan and Russian rubles.
India, for instance, has started paying for Russian oil imports in yuan, and China also began using its yuan to pay Russia for most of its energy imports in the first quarter of this year, according to Reuters.
Saudi Arabia may be new to BRICS, but it’s already colluding with Russia to reduce petroleum production, which has resulted in oil reaching a 10-month high this month.
What’s notable about the BRICS newcomers is that many are authoritarian regimes who are intimately familiar with the power of US sanctions.
Iran, of course, has contended with them for years.
The Saudis — while a crucial US ally — are keen to avoid the “consequences” called for by Biden in October after OPEC+ announced those large production cuts.
Back in 2020, Biden also threatened to make the kingdom a “pariah” over the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
By shutting Washington out of trade and diplomacy, BRICS membership allows rogue nations to upend our ability to “weaponize” the dollar as a tool to punish ‘bad guys’.
The US has employed sanctions for decades, in lieu of military intervention against authoritarian regimes such as Iran, North Korea, and now Russia.
The White House, for instance, seized $300 billion in Russian assets following its invasion of Ukraine.
Biden also removed Russia from SWIFT, the international money transfer system, sending shock-waves to non-western nations at risk of White House ire.
But sanctions, no matter how robust, have proven ineffective. China and India — both of which have yet to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine — have kept Moscow’s energy revenue flowing, helping to finance Putin’s war machine and highlighting the power of BRICS cooperation.
The BRICS already have a significant presence across the global economy.
With a collective population of more than 3 billion and 31.5% of the world’s GDP, they’re a formidable challenger to the G7 block of the world’s top economic superpowers.
The G-7’s share of global GDP, for instance, is currently at 30%, and projected to fall to 27.95 percent in 2027, according to Statista research.
The dominance of the dollar has driven many non-Western nations to join forces and develop a counterweight to Western economic hegemony.
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