Bürokratieabbau: Womit keiner rechnet

Bundesregierung wurde auf der Klausurtagung in Meseberg letzte Woche diskutiert. Es war nicht in einem Bergwerk, sondern in Meseberg. Alle sprachen über den Abbau.Bürokratie. Die Minister für Justiz und für Wirtschaft, Marco Buschmann (FDP) und Robert Habeck (Grüne), überboten sich geradezu mit Vereinfachungsversprechen. Sie wollen „gegensteuern“, „mehr Tempo“ machen und „das Dickicht beseitigen“.

There is a consensus that the state annoys its citizens and economy with constantly changing rules, regulations, and obligations. The complaint about excessive bureaucracy and the resulting criticism of civil servants are common topics at private gatherings and business events.

However, the latest data from the Federal Statistical Office seems to debunk the beloved prejudice of the Germans. According to this, bureaucracy in the country is not increasing but decreasing. Who is correct?

The Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden is an agency that calculates and measures practically everything: including energy prices, population growth, and construction activity. And also bureaucracy. Specifically, its costs. Based on this, the agency creates the Bureaucracy Cost Index (BCI), which started with a value of 100 points in 2012 and has been updated since then. It has previously exceeded 100 points, but currently stands at 98.4 points. Therefore, the current burden of bureaucracy is 1.6 points better than at the beginning of the calculations. At least.

Das ist die gute Nachricht. Sie hört sich zumindest gut an. Die erste von mehreren schlechten Nachrichten ist jedoch, dass auch die Berechnung der Bürokratiekosten eine bürokratische Angelegenheit ist – und wenig aussagt.

The Statistical Federal Office includes dealing with traditional paperwork in the bureaucracy costs: „Submitting applications, conducting reports, labeling, reporting statistics, or providing evidence.“ All of this requires working time, and since it can be converted into money, a final sum is obtained.

One wonders why the Federal Office does not immediately mention this amount. In euros and cents, everyone would understand. Nevertheless, this figure for 2023 cannot be found on the website of the statistical agency. Values for previous years are well hidden.

After several inquiries, an employee finally reveals the numbers: The bureaucracy costs the German economy nearly 65 billion euros annually. This is about 20 billion more than in 2012. How is it possible that the costs have increased while the index has decreased in the same period?

The employee of the statistical authority explains that the BKI should eliminate misunderstandings. He is aware that the convoluted technical language is difficult for outsiders to understand. However, it is necessary to adjust the underlying numbers for inflation and present them in real terms. This is how this image is obtained.

Mathematically, that is actually correct. However, the impression that bureaucratic costs have decreased is therefore incorrect. And that is the first piece of bad news: In fact, they have increased. It just doesn’t seem that way because they have increased less compared to all other costs. So the situation has not improved, it has just worsened to a lesser extent.

The second piece of bad news: The bureaucratic costs only include the effort for paperwork in „compliance with federal regulations,“ according to the Federal Statistical Office. This means that all regulations of state law, municipal rules, or those of the EU do not play a role at all. They are not taken into account in the index. Although citizens and businesses have to deal with them equally.

And in a third point, the BKI does not paint a true picture of bureaucratic conditions in Germany. That is the final bad news. Because the so-called „compliance costs“ are also missing from the bureaucracy costs. This measures how much it costs companies to comply with laws. So, for example, if a new law requires a company to install different air filters, the costs for that would be counted as compliance costs. They are essentially the follow-up costs of bureaucracy. How far-reaching these costs truly are in everyday life has yet to be calculated.