Excerpt from the article „A strong state in transition to more sustainability“ by Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia for the „Börsenzeitung“:
North Rhine-Westphalia is an economic region in the heart of Europe. It is constantly changing and exhibits an astonishing continuity. With its strong economic power, the region has made a significant contribution to Germany’s economic success for decades. In 2019, the gross domestic product of North Rhine-Westphalia amounted to over 17 billion euros – more than any other federal state. If North Rhine-Westphalia were a state, it would rank 19th worldwide, ahead of Switzerland, Sweden, Poland and Belgium. Around 120,000 new companies are founded here every year. A fifth of all the state’s startups and eight of the 30 DAX-listed companies have their headquarters in North Rhine-Westphalia. The 63 universities and colleges produced around 110,000 graduates in 2019. For example, the Bonn University of Excellence is one of the best universities in Germany.
One might think that this economic success will be a guarantee for success. But this is a mistake. The economic, cultural and political „ecosystem“ on which success is based must be preserved in the long term. It is obvious that the region is facing several major and very different challenges in the current situation, including the corona pandemic, climate change and brexit. An important question for policymakers in this situation is: How do we create the right framework conditions to achieve rapid investments in Germany and integrate climate protection, competitiveness and social equality?
In North Rhine-Westphalia, after decades of structural changes in coal mining, lignite mining and all coal-based electricity generation will cease within a shorter period of time. This is a historic task that must show how a transition to a climate-neutral economy can be achieved in industrialized countries while maintaining an efficient and attractive industrial position. For this reason, efforts are being intensified with the German government and the European Union (EU) to make the industrial transformation process successful and sustainable – for example by expanding the hydrogen economy. Sustainable bonds will play a greater role in the future.
But in the current economic transformation, further impulses for growth, employment and prosperity are also needed. Above all, it must be made easier for entrepreneurs in many areas, for example by reducing time-consuming and cost-intensive bureaucracy. The digitization of administration is also being pushed ahead at full speed – with the goal of being completely digital by 2025.
The Corona crisis is presenting the country with immense challenges that were undreamt of just a few months ago. It is causing a change in thinking in many areas, but also opens up new opportunities to make things happen. This can give rise to innovative projects, such as the „Task Force Banks“ in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Task Force is also the basis for Fin.Connect.NRW, a cross-sector initiative launched on June 15, 2020 by the Minister of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitization and Energy, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart. This initiative is aimed at networking the banking industry, the Bundesbank, the chambers of industry and commerce, the scientific community and all those who want to contribute to the future of North Rhine-Westphalia as a financial center. Financial centers such as Stuttgart have shown that networking and cooperation in a financial center can create an „ecosystem“ for companies and investments that offers real benefits for all.