German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced growing
criticism Monday from within the ranks of her government over her
plans to boost welfare spending by an estimated 28.5 billion euros
(37.1 billion dollars) ahead of September's national elections.
The moves, which include an increase in both child tax benefits and stay-at-home mothers' pensions, was "a welfare program on credit," said Rainer Bruederle, who is spearheading the election campaign of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) - the junior partners in Merkel's ruling centre-right coalition.
"You can make adjustments to the budget, but you can't saddle the budget with them," said Bruederle, who is the FDP's chancellor candidate for the September 22 poll.
"This year Christmas comes during the summer," he said, adding that the clear objective of the coming 12 months should be managing public finances.
He was echoing comments made in recent days by other members of the coalition, including parliamentarians from Merkel's own Christian Democrats (CDU).
"Budget consolidation has to be the absolute priority. The chancellor knows that as well," CDU budget expert Norbert Barthle said on the weekend.
The German business daily Handelsblatt estimated that the welfare increases announced last week by Merkel would cost about 28.5 billion euros.
The planned boost to welfare spending comes as Merkel also faces criticism from parts of Europe over her drive for fiscal austerity to help end the eurozone's long-running debt crisis.
The chancellor aims to have her proposals, which also include investing more money in new infrastructure, incorporated into the party election manifesto that is to be released later this month.
With the election campaign heating up, the package of measures also represented another push by Merkel to grab key parts of the election campaign platform of the opposition Social Democats and Greens.
She has already unveiled plans to dismantle nuclear energy and introduce a minimum wage along the lines proposed by the opposition.
Social Democrat chairman Sigmar Gabriel described the increased welfare proposals as "electoral fraud," insisting the chancellor would never be able to fulfil her promises.
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