Enabling better policy making

The FiFo Institute for Public Economics at the University of Cologne unites top quality economic research with a straightforward "hands on"-approach to policy consulting. Our mission is to enable better policy making.

Primarily, we engage in all fields related to public finance, to urban economics and local finance, to environmental economics, and to questions of demographic change. We pursue these aims: By listening first. By providing the best information attainable. By answering the relevant research questions. By offering top-quality policy advice.

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The Institute's management and team welcome Werner Gatzer as a new FiFo Policy Fellow. The Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bahn AG was responsible for the federal budget as State Secretary for over 18 years until the end of 2023. "There is hardly any other person in Germany who has as much authority and practical experience in budgetary and fiscal policy as Werner Gatzer. We are very grateful to have him among our Fellows," remarks Michael Thöne on this very welcome addition.


As keynote speaker at the Political Ash Wednesday of the Gütersloh district employers, Michael Thöne discusses the growing challenges North Rhine-Westphalian municipal authorities face in the field of investment, climate protection and digitalisation. All of this must be managed with fewer staff. In view of the mounting wave of retirements, it is becoming increasingly important to modernise and focus public tasks: "We don't need a weak government, but a government that does the right thing".


Japan is establishing a modern evaluation system for tax expenditures. Tomohiro Kimura, Deputy Director from the ministry in charge, SOUMU, as well as Otoe Yoda, Arisa Kudo and Toko Kawagoe from Deloitte Tokyo talk to Eva Gerhards and Michael Thöne about two decades of FiFo experience with strengthening subsidy control in Germany and about the institute's trademark evaluation system for tax subsidies.


The FiFo evaluations of numerous German tax expenditures have put agro diesel and the motor vehicle tax exemption in agriculture on the BMF's definitive cut list according to "Wirtschaftswoche". Yet in the hearing of the Finance Committee of the Bundestag, Michael Thöne talks more about the reduction of subsidies in the air transport tax and outlines a competitively fair reduction of the general diesel privilege based on the Belgian model.


Municipal road construction contributions, a Prussian invention dating back to 1893, are extremely unpopular and have been abolished in almost all German Länder for a good five years. Also in North Rhine-Westphalia, they are now to be abolished once and for all. In his expert hearing statement, Michael Thöne outlines the evaluation criteria against which the non-contributory, low-bureaucracy and incentive-based financing of road construction must be measured. In this light, he characterises the mechanism now proposed as a good interim model.


Social Europe is at its strongest when it does not become a European welfare state ahead of time, argues Michael Thöne in the newly published final volume of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's "Germany Trilogy". After "Deutschland – Ländersache?!“ (2020) and "Deutschland und sein Geld“ (2022), the third book "Deutschland und sein Sozialstaat. Erfolgsgeschichte mit Zukunft?" (2024), which was initiated by the late FiFo Policy Fellow Jens Bullerjahn, offers a broad kaleidoscope of numerous contributions and discussions on social issues and social policy on 540 pages. All three books can be downloaded and ordered here


The 2023 and 2024 federal budgets of Germany stand on the brink. This would not be necessary, as Michael Thöne shows in a digital presentation in Munich. Numerous subsidies and tax privileges have been evaluated over the last 20 years. Many of these have been assessed very critically - usually without any political consequences. The current budget crisis and the major transformations that Germany has to cope with provide a perfect opportunity to abolish outdated privileges on a wide front. This will free up a lot of funding for consolidation and mitigating selective hardships, for tax cuts and transformation financing. The side effect: a simpler and fairer tax system.


Especially in times of very tight public budgets, sustainability- and performance-oriented budgeting opens up new ways of implementing ambitious policies for the future with less money. With participation from the Bundestag, the Federal Chancellery, the Federal Audit Office and the three departments of the current 11th Spending Review, BMF, BMWK and BMUV, the FiFo-workshop at the Ministry for the Environment looked at the sound German preconditions for, as well as the important further steps towards sustainability-oriented budget modernization. Special thanks for the inputs from Deloitte and ZEW and in particular on Austrian green budgeting from the MoF in Vienna.


It is with great sadness that we announce that Klaus Mackscheidt passed away on 10 November 2023. With his demise, the University of Cologne has lost a passionate academic teacher, a great economist and an even greater person. We will miss him dearly. In 2023, Klaus Mackscheidt had been Director at the FiFo Institute for Public Economics for 50 years. He celebrated this unique anniversary, modest and tireless as ever, with unflagging productivity. His last two essays "Klimaschutz und Wohnungsbedarf" and "Sondervermögen versus Schuldenbremse" are published posthumously as FiFo Discussion Papers.

20 December 2023

Klaus Mackscheidt

FiFo / Dezember 2023 / Discussion Paper, FiFo-Köln

15 November 2023

Andreas Becker und Klaus Mackscheidt

FiFo / November 2023 / Discussion Paper, FiFo-Köln


29 August 2023

Michael ThöneJan Willeken

FiFo / 2023 / NRW.BANK.Fokus Kommunen 2023 / NRW.BANK

Transformation. Investition. Nachhaltigkeit. 

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