An Interview with Professor Achim Truger
"With the measures that have already been put into place, the German economy is in a good position."
Our alumnus Prof. Dr. Achim Truger is professor of socio-economics with a focus on government and public finance at the University of Duisburg-Essen. On March 1, 2019, he was appointed to the German Council of Economic Experts by the German government by suggestion of the trade unions.
We talked to Achim Truger about the economic effects of the Corona crisis, about his work as an economic expert and about his time as a student at the WiSo-Faculty. Furthermore, he gave our students valuable tips.
Professor Truger, the Corona crisis has changed social and economic priorities in a very short time. In a special expertise, you and your colleagues from the German Council of Economic Experts have dealt with the Corona crisis and its effects. What do you recommend the government do to limit the socio-economic damage?
As an immediate reaction in this type of situation, all necessary resources for the healthcare system must be mobilized, and secondly, preventative measure should be taken to ensure that the restrictions required by health policy, the breaking away of international supply chains and of export demand do not lead to an itself reinforcing heavy economic crisis.
The liquidity of banks and companies must be secured; income must be supported and employment stabilised through temporary work.
There is still some work to be done: gaps in the existing programmes need to be identified, e.g. it might be necessary to increase the temporary work allowance. Local authorities urgently need exceptional support
How do you assess the government's crisis management?
The Federal Government - and many state governments as well, by the way - has put together an impressive package of measures in a very short time to help bridge the crisis and alleviate its economic consequences. That is already a lot.
But there is still a lot to be done: gaps in the existing programmes must be identified; for example, it may be necessary to increase the temporary work allowance. The municipalities urgently need special support.
So far, there is also no economic recovery plan for the rebound immediately following the Corona crisis; nor is there crisis management and solidarity at the European level. The undertakings are far too weak.
An ambitious economic stimulus package, ideally combined with the Green Deal, i.e. decarbonisation, will also be indispensable at the European level.
In your opinion, are we well prepared for the time after the Corona crisis? What measures are needed for the recovery of the European Economy?
With the measures that have already been put into place, the German economy is in a good position.
However, due to uncertainty and loss of income, a strong economic stimulus is needed. This could be in the form of a child bonus or a temporary reduction in VAT to boost private consumption, temporary depreciation allowances for investment activity, as well as a continuation of the public investment offensive.
An ambitious economic stimulus package, preferably combined with the Green Deal, i.e. decarbonisation, will also be indispensable at the European level.
It's great to see everyone pulling together and dealing with the situation in a totally creative way.
How has your daily work routine, as a university professor and economic expert, changed in the current situation?
It is a very special and exciting situation.
Everything is coordinated via video conference from inquiries to the special report of the council. Then the transformation of teaching in the direction of e-learning is added to this. All of this is still in the start-up phase of our Socio-Economics Master's Programme in Duisburg-Essen, and there is a lot to do. But, it's also great to see everyone pulling together and dealing with the situation in a totally creative way.
What has been your most interesting consulting case as an economic expert so far?
We don't normally have any specific consulting cases, but instead we deal with the economy and many aspects of economic policy in an annual report. It was particularly exciting that in my first year I received two special reports, one on climate policy last summer and now another on the corona crisis.
When you were a student, did you already have the desire to work as a scientist after you graduated?
Yes, of course. I was very fast and successful in my studies, and it was my dream to become a professor one day. However, since I did not come from an academic family, the path to becoming a professor was rather unclear to me, and I received hardly any special support.
I was also repeatedly struck by the misguided prognoses of many professors, e.g. regarding German unity and the European Monetary System. This has shown me the uncertain ground on which economics often operates and the importance of a critical way of thinking.
When you think back to your student days, are there any situations that have particularly shaped you?
After an honestly quite terrible "Basic Study Period”, (we didn't all fit into the auditorium at the opening event) I found the academic freedom in the "Main Study Period” great. Actually, I would have liked to continue my studies forever. Not just economics, but also statistics, philosophy, foreign languages - I was incredibly inquisitive.
The misguided prognoses of many professors, e.g. regarding German Unity and the European Monetary System, were also always revealing to me. This has made it clear to me on what uncertain ground economics is often based and the importance of a critical way of thinking.
I would like to encourage students to think outside the box, to think critically and to adopt a pluralistic perspective. There is more than economics and money. This is also of central importance for the future of our democracy.
As an Alumnus, what advice would you share with current WiSo students?
I find it a bit difficult to give specific advice, as the conditions today are much more difficult than in my time. We had so much freedom; it wasn't until the block examination at the end of the course that things really got serious. Nowadays, after the Bologna Reform, students are constantly being tested, the whole thing is much more school-like.
Nevertheless, I would like to encourage students to think outside the box, to think critically and to adopt a pluralistic perspective. There is more than economy and money. This is also of central importance for the future of our democracy.
Interview: Ayla Wisselinck