Goldman Sachs banker to join German finance ministry

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Berlin (AFP)

A top Goldman Sachs executive is set to join Chancellor Angela Merkel's new government as a deputy finance minister, a spokesman said, an appointment that drew immediate scorn from the opposition.

Joerg Kukies will step down as co-head of Goldman Sachs in Germany and Austria to become a state secretary under new finance chief Olaf Scholz, charged with financial market and European policies, a ministry spokeswoman told AFP, confirming media reports.

Like Scholz, Kukies has for decades belonged to the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), but critics slammed the job switch as the latest example of a Goldman veteran landing a government position, raising doubts about where the ex-banker's loyalties would lie.

"Scholz is copying Trump by making the arsonists the firefighters," tweeted far-left MP Fabio de Masi. "You may as well just let the bankers write the laws."

US President Donald Trump has famously filled his administration with several Goldman Sachs alumni, the most high profile of whom was former Goldman president Gary Cohn.

Cohn resigned as Trump's top economic advisor earlier this month in protest at the president's controversial plans to levy new trade tariffs.

The German finance ministry also confirmed that Scholz was bringing back former state secretary for budgetary affairs Werner Gatzer, who last year left the government for a senior position at state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Gatzer previously served under former hardline finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and is seen as the co-architect of Schaeuble's cherished "black zero" policy of a balanced budget.

New finance boss Scholz, who was only sworn in last week after nearly six months of coalition haggling in Europe's top economy, has also pledged to maintain a balanced budget.

He is the first Social Democrat since 2009 to hold the powerful finance ministry portfolio, one of the trophy concessions wrested during the tortuous coalition talks with Merkel's conservatives.