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A Cushioned Impact of the Financial Crisis – Local Government Financial Resilience in Germany

Governmental Financial Resilience

ISBN: 978-1-78714-263-3, eISBN: 978-1-78714-262-6

Publication date: 30 May 2017


This chapter investigates financial resilience of German local governments. The local governments included in this analysis challenged the applicability of the financial resilience concept by reporting no significant direct impact of the financial crisis during the last 10 years. This is also in line with more general observations suggesting that Germany weathered the financial crisis successfully and without the dramatic effects on its local governments that are observable in other countries. During semi-structured interviews with key administrative decision-makers, it turned out that the financial crisis impacted the local governments’ commercial tax revenues only in its aftermath, and respondents rather highlighted the refugee crisis in 2015 and sudden changes in the tax base caused by relocation, bankruptcy or economic turmoil as financial shocks. More general trends, for example, upper governmental levels devolving more service and administrative responsibility without sufficient compensation, and in particular long-term issues, that is, high debt levels magnifying effects of financial shocks, seem to challenge German local governments. Some cases included in this investigation seem reluctant to make conflict-laden, but necessary changes, and feel exposed to policies and regulations by upper governmental levels. This creates uncertainty and at times leaves them in a sense of helplessness and infeasibility of proper planning. However, the need for investing resources to build up internal capacities has already been pointed out. From a financial resilience perspective, this seems even more important in a context where relying on buffering was feasible, but might prove insufficient once other internal capacities are required to tackle local governments’ financial vulnerabilities.



Papenfuß, U., Saliterer, I. and Albrecht, N. (2017), "A Cushioned Impact of the Financial Crisis – Local Government Financial Resilience in Germany", Governmental Financial Resilience (Public Policy and Governance, Vol. 27), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 115-134.



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