Friday, May 25, 2018

The Finger-Print Story

It's a piece carried by various German news sources, but I'll reference it back to Deutsche Welle.  Back around two years ago....the Germans were hyping up that they'd going and gotten finger-print technology and was going to install it in all asylum-application offices.  Well...they didn't exactly do that.

This technology was supposed to prevent dual registrations....where asylum seekers were sneaky and applying in two or three different states.

Presently, out of the 494 immigration offices and social offices.....200 are lacking the capability.  The fix-it date?  BamF says that around by September of this year.....they would be totally fixed up....while social offices are talking about the very end of 2018. 

What this all means?  My guess is that you will see a wave of several hundred folks are registered in two separate states (probably less than a thousand though).  The BamF and social office folks will get highly embarrassed and this will be talked about for a week or two.

Why did it take this long?  That's avoided in the discussion.  The news folks from public TV aren't asking and one might sense that it's a pretty stupid reason. 

Schwarz Arbeit Talk

I sat through a German integration course today, and one of the five big topics of the class was 'schwarz-arbeit' (black work, or unreported income work).

The instructor probably spent at least 25 minutes on the topic....often hyping and stressing that this is 'verboten' (illegal).

Everyone has an opinion on this.  Most working-class Germans will tell you that the underground economy or black work.....is the only way to get ahead.  Some upper-class folks will tell you that they work hard.....to avoid being seen in a black work situation but appreciate having the hidden income existing. 

How many Germans are working on the 'black'?  It's hard to say.  The government will cite estimates but they are purely educated guesses.  Universities and foundations will give you a figure and it's based on interviews.  I would take a fair estimate that one of every ten Germans will find some way in an average year to make a bit cash which is not reported. 

I worked with a guy in the early 1990s, whose German landlord who had a regular job from Monday through Friday, and had a secretive landscaping service strictly on Saturdays, which he'd net a minimum of 500 Marks in a single day.  Around fifteen years ago, one of my associates brought up his German neighbor who was doing tile work on weekends and probably drawing 15,000 Euro a year via his 'black work'.  Another co-worker brought up a major renovation job going on in his neighborhood, and the chief had brought in a couple of Polish guys who were getting paid sixty-percent of what a German would charge for the same work. 

My instructors harsh criticism on the topic?  You are taking money away from the social society that exists in Germany. 

I tend to look at this via the capitalist problem.

You have job X, and bring Y amount to the government, which has some budget in their mind and have 700 'gifts' arranged in some order to hand out to the public.  Then one day, you get a black job (x1), and there's this y1 amount of money which you ought to report to the government.  If you did report it.....your tax rate would go up (sadly), and instead of 700 'gifts' arranged to hand out and simply give you the extra money back (for your own pocket).....they then figure that they can hand out 900 'gifts'.  Things are fine until three years pass, and bad economic times arrive, and you have not no y1 amount of money.  Sadly, the 900 'gifts' are now expected, and they raise everyone's taxes to reach the higher amount of money.  If they would just hand you the money back.....people would be fine with this gimmick.  So there is a lack of respect and trust existing.

How the immigrants feel?  My sense in the class is that they just want a job right now, and later on....they will worry about black work. 


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Scandal Talk over BamF and My Humble Feeling

Over the past two weeks, there's been a fair amount of talk in Germany over scandal with BamF (the agency that does immigration approval or disapproval).  The Bremen office got into the original trouble, but there's talk now of a national audit and more bad episodes to be put out in public view.

The talk of bribes?  It continues but you get the impression that the interpreter crowd (hired immigrants themselves) were mostly the ones who got into bribes.  You don't hear much of the BamF German employees getting bribes (least not yet).

So this is what I think came to occur.

1.  The 700-man agency (BamF) that existed in 2012...had existed for decades with a simple practice.  You (the immigrant) walked into a consulate or embassy, talked to the German folks, and filled out the application form while in your home-country.  You presented an ID.  The folks at the embassy did a basic background check and confirmed you weren't nuts or a prison-releasee.  What they sent onto BamF in Nuremberg was a package that had probably one-third of the stress work done.

2.  After 2013 started up and a whole lot of folks were walking into Germany....BamF had a mess on their hands.  They didn't have the manpower to do all the ID checks, the background checks, and 'foot-work'.  They got behind, and I suspect that if you talked to the older employees....by mid-summer of 2014, they were taking six months to do something that used to take six weeks.

3.  Rather than admit 'defeat' or whatever you'd call this slowed-down process.....they continued on.  Bringing in new employees?  It would be exactly what an American firm or organization would do.  They didn't want to do it because it'd take months to train more people.  By summer of 2014, they should have been adding a hundred people every month, and hiring up retired personnel to be trainers.

4.  By 2015 in the spring....the numbers were inflating again. I suspect that they (BamF) reached a point where they were just approving folks with minimum review....just to get the numbers down and appear that bad in terms of length of time for approval.   It wouldn't surprise me if they were fumbling around and approving five people out of ten....with no real effort.  An audit to catch this screwed-up method?  Non-existent.

5.  By spring of 2016, they at their deepest point, and finally bringing on more people.  Some folks were taking a full year for the approval/disapproval process.  Part of the problem centered on so many people not having a valid ID, and giving suspect information (all part of the process that never occurred in 2012 or prior).

6.  People at the top who should have observed all of this?  Merkel and her ministers?  No.  The head of BamF back in 2013 to 2015?  I doubt if he understood the complex way his organization functioned and the helpful way that the application back in the home-country (with the ID) helped to avoid hassle and extra hours.  Even when this guy got 'dumped' (they basically told him to retire)....the new guy came in....got more employees involved, and tried to fix a couple of things.  But I doubt if he understood the whole complex way of visa approval.  It's a process, and you can make this simple or complex. 

Yes, BamF finally got caught.  Now, the penalty?  Someone will have to go back....ID all of the faulty approval episodes, and re-examine folks....perhaps telling some guy that he shouldn't have been approved, and thus get a judge involved with a bigger mess in the end.  You might actually see 10,000 people who are thinking they are squared away.....who will be told to pack and leave.

I said this in 2015....that the process used for all of this....from sheltering, to the handling business....was all screwed up and that it'd eventually come back to be a major mess that the public could not handle.  Well....we've arrived at that point, I think.

Deportee Story

It's a page two type story from Focus magazine this morning (the news magazine folks here in Germany).  The topic?  Well....deportations of failed visa applicants has a problem.

The basic story centers on the first quarter of 2018.

In this period....every other deportation effort in Germany....failed.

The German cops, who hold the responsibility of deporting folks.....say that 5548 folks were deported.  But in the same quarter....there were another 4,752 deportations which failed or could not occur.

There are various reasons where a deportation can fail....some relate to health conditions.  Some to legal situations.  But Focus brought up this one odd aspect.  Seventy-five episodes were halted because the pilots refused to fly the plane with the deportees onboard.

Justified?  Yes.....to some degree.  Pilots are supposed to worry about safety, and if they think that the guy being brought onboard is a nutcase or potential threat....they can say no.

The German cops?  They are a bit aggravated over the high number (4,752).  They invest man-hours into this 'act' and each failed deportation adds onto a number which is public information.  It makes them look bad....even if it's not their fault.

What the cops are suggesting?  There's some hint that they'd like to go and arrange one flight (figure 90-plus seats) via a chartered airline (filled with only deportees) to go to X-country.  The chartered airline would bid on the flight....likely ensure a fair profit....and agree to have a pilot there to fulfill the obligation (probably NOT a German pilot, that's my humble guess).

The potential mess?  I tend to look at the worst possible scenario of things and the one that stands out in this case?  What if you chartered such a flight, with 150-deportees onboard, and it crashed? Can you imagine the pro-asylum crowd and the hostile nature coming out of such an event?  Naturally, they'd tell you that it'd be ok if this were a regular flight with 145 non-deportees and 5 deportees onboard (so much easier for these folks to accept).

The problem with this idea is that you'd have to bring in a thousand cops to ensure an operation like this with one single flight....filled with forced deportees....was effectively carried out.  It just makes it into a bigger mess.

Hamburg Diesel Business

In roughly a week....Hamburg will be the first German city to ban diesel cars to some extent.  It'll be two major avenues in the city, which will have a sign noting that diesel cars are 'verbotten' (forbidden).

The deal?  Max-Brauer Allee will have around 580 meters closed off to any diesel vehicle that less than the Euro-6 standard.

The second street is SStresemannstra├če .  Oddly, the rule here is different....it'll be closed off to older diesel trucks....NOT cars.  But it also gets more complicated.....there are exemptions on this street.  For example, garbage trucks and delivery vehicles are OK.  Rescue vehicles are OK.  Residents who live on this street having diesel trucks?  They will be OK.

You have a mix of Germans who've commented on this business.  Some feel that it's being developed as a very complicated procedure.  Some suggest that all of the diesel traffic (especially on Max-Brauer Allee....will simply go to the next avenue, and in six months....that pollution rate will make the next candidate to have forbidden traffic. 

The curious thing here is what happens about four weeks into the next phase on Max-Brauer Allee.  If they do the air sample, and you only see a marginal 10-percent improvement in thirty days.....is that an indication that maybe there's a secondary problem? 

Will there be wave after wave in the coming years of streets being forbidden for diesel vehicles?  No one can say for sure. It just makes things more complicated.

13,000 Jobs? Maybe?

This got brought up today by ARD (Channel One, German public TV).  It's a health story, but it's also a jobs story.

The German Health Minister, Jens Spahn, says that the ministry wants to move ahead and pursue improving the healthcare sector.  This means adding 13,000 more nurses and technicians onto the national health 'grid'.

The money to fill the jobs?  It'll come from the tax base, and will have an impact.

But the chief question is.....where do you find 13,000 qualified nurses?  Coming out of thin air?

A couple of years ago, some German company went to the Philippines and started a nursing academy.  The deal was simple.....German language classes were developed, and a nursing program (with certifications) was attached.  You'd finish up this program, and get a work-visa into Germany.  The idea was a couple hundred a year.  But that was just to counter-balance the shortage that occurs in a normal year....not to fill 13,000 more positions.

My general guess is that a number of nurses in places like Greece, Czech, Romania, and Bulgaria will look at the pay offerings, consider the language classes, and maybe up to forty-percent of these positions will be filled.  Maybe from the recent immigrants into Germany.....you might find a couple of thousand with the ability to fill the jobs.  But I'll take a guess that in four years, there are still empty positions existing from the 13,000 potential jobs. 

German Economic Worry

I sat and reviewed German news last night from ARD (public TV, Channel One).  The newest BIG story told by ARD....about President Trump talking on a new levy for imported cars....which could be up to to 25 percent.  Naturally, the Germans are worried.

This centers on cars, trucks, and even parts.

The wording of the story is that the Commerce Department was directed to review an import tariff, and the Trump-question was.....do car imports represent 'national security threat'?  How long will such a review take?  If this were the Obama Administration.....I'd guess sixty to ninety days.  In this case, I can only guess sixty days or less. 

As for numbers?  The US brings in around 500,000 vehicles per year from Germany.  The US imports roughly 1.5-billion dollars worth of vehicles into Germany....although it's very unclear if these are purely cars, or a mix of various vehicles (to include buses, trucks, tractors, etc). 

The problem here is that the whole trade business talks....can only occur with the US and the EU at the table....NOT Germany.  Germany basically signed away their rights by the way that the EU was given certain powers.  This means virtually all members of the EU are given a chance to 'help' Germany, or 'screw' Germany. 

Part of this issue was some face-to-face meeting in the first couple of weeks of the Trump Administration, with Chancellor Merkel.  Trump wanted to talk trade, and Merkel begged off (avoiding any discussion at all) because the EU is the doorway to trade talks.  So, Trump pondered upon the trade business and realize that not all members of the EU are happy about Germany's strength over them.  His tactics are to avoid the Germans on trade, and make this an entire discussion by the EU itself.

Connecting back to the failed TTIP?  Well....that's the funny thing.  Since those talks failed (toward the fall of 2016), no one within the EU has been interested in restarting them.  So Trump has put an enormous amount of pressure on the EU folks.....TTIP more or less will have to restart.  From the German perspective....the last couple of months of TTIP in 2016 reached a miserable stage where various countries got into the details and voiced objections to the structure.  Bringing this back up today?  You could be talking about another two years of intense TTIP talk.

All of this would suggest some trade war to start and the one single EU country that could have the most to lose?  Germany.  And frankly, most of the other EU members would sit and be entertained over the 'stumble'. 


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Spiral of BamF

There's a decent article over at Focus this morning (the news magazine) which talk about the issue of 1,200-odd asylum applications which were approved in a fraudulent manner by the German BamF agency (they handle all the paperwork for asylum and immigration).  An investigation continues, and I suspect we will go far beyond the 1,200 cases....maybe even on up to 12,000 cases (my hunch) in the end.   I recommend reading over the article, which will bring up to date over the Bremen episode.

What really happened here?  I will sum it up in forty lines.

Prior to 2013, the Germans operated a 700-person agency (BamF) that knew on an average basis that they would have 250,000 folks appear and ask for immigration or asylum on a yearly basis.  Those folks.....always had IDs and part of the application process was simple because it was done in the applicant's home country, and the embassy folks would confirm part of the story.  I'll refer to this process as version 1.0.

You can figure the process in version 1.0 as being rather simple and the true number of man-hours that BamF had to devote as being probably less than twelve man-hours per applicant.  The existence of the true ID and the embassy background work saved countless hours.

As 2013 came, and the new applicants for immigration and asylum arrived.....a fair number had no legit ID, and they were simply walking into Germany.  I'll refer to this process as being version 2.0.

Background reviews and proving the true ID of the applicants?  That probably doubled and tripled the entire process.  Instead of dealing with 250,000 easy applicants.....by 2014 (end of the year), you were dealing with 450,000 folks, and I would take a guess that each applicant was eating up forty to sixty man-hours of time.  Stories didn't always prove to be true, and some folks were fraudulent in saying their age or nationality.

BamF was now under pressure.

By the end of 2015, they were up to near 950,000 (some even suggest 1.1 million).  I would call this era with BamF as the 3.0 version. They were beyond their capability.

The Merkel team?  They were of zero value to BamF, and actually causing the problem to be even worse.

My humble belief is that some BamF folks saw a mess without much relief, and between bribes and just willing nature to clear their plate as quickly as possible.....just gave into temptation and approved visas without much of a review. 

You can go back and blame the government for the open door policy but the BamF was kinda set to the pattern of an ID existing, and part of the review process being done in advance.  It's like loading sixteen people into a luxury-class Mercedes and expecting it to run at the same level when it had two people in it.