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Europe

German Press Review: Living Beyond Their Means

Editorialists in Germany commented on the German government's admission that the country will again violate euro zone restrictions limiting budget deficits with its plans for 2003.

Germany would certainly have preferred to do without a new record in public borrowing, the Südwest Presse from Ulm wrote on Friday. “Finance Minister Hans Eichel has to borrow over €43 billion ($51 billion) this year to plug budget holes. That’s because the economy is not growing and the public spending has still not been reduced," the paper wrote. It demanded that in such a difficult situation the government and the opposition immediately sit down and negotiate. Only then would it be possible to decide on cutting subsidies, the paper insisted.

The Frankfurter Rundschau reminded its readers that in March this year Eichel was still lauding his budget as an “impressive confirmation of our consolidation policy.” Only weeks later the deficit had already doubled, and since then, the paper stated, the budget had become a big black hole that swallowed billions. The paper said Eichel was at least partly responsibility for the situation: “He is so far off in his planning and can’t simply talk his way out by putting the blame on disappointing economic growth and other adverse conditions.”

The Stuttgarter Zeitung, however, doubted whether the opposition would have been any more successful: “Neither the Christian Democrats nor the Liberals have presented any alternatives,” the paper argued. Eichel may be under attack now, but the regional finance ministers of many German states are facing very similar problems, it said.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also remarked that Eichel wasn't the only one accountable for the record public debt. “If the pension system swallows increasing sums of money, if the Federal Employment Office needs more and more billions from Berlin to pay the many unemployed in the country, it is the result of inadequate reforms in the past." The paper said, “Eichel’s budget highlights the deficiencies of the entire (Social Democrat-Green) coalition government.”

In Berlin Die Welt pointed out that neither the vast realms of Hans Eichel or of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder were going bankrupt. Instead, the German state had been living beyond its means and playing fast and loose with its citizens. There were many reasons for this, some of which were buried deep in the past, it wrote. But perhaps the most important reason was that, “Everybody expects too much. The state expects too much of its citizens -- and the reverse.”