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German Press Review: The Paralyzed Economy

German editorial writers on Thursday commented on the government’s annual report on the state of the economy, which predicts growth of between 1.5 and 2 percent. They also looked at the country’s educational standards.

The mood in the German business community is better now than it has been for four years, wrote the General-Anzeiger in Bonn. Back then, the paper recalled, the booming economy encouraged Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to promise a swift reduction in unemployment levels, but after three dismal years, this time the government’s being more cautious. The daily warned people not to expect the economic upswing to be reflected by an improvement on the job front. The General-Anzeiger blamed the paralysis of the domestic market, where individual households are hanging on to their money, but it also comments on the paradox of export giant Germany increasingly getting its exports manufactured abroad, and wondered what that says about the competitiveness of its products.

The Nordbayerischer Kurier in Bayreuth took a simpler view. Export is buzzing, it said, the euro is at an acceptable high, and the reform process is underway. The next step, in the paper’s view, is a big tax reform. A tax revolution is

the best motor for a durable upswing, it wrote, and complained that the government is suddenly blocking the idea.

The much-touted tax relief the parliament spent so long arguing about actually works out at a pretty measly sum, commented the Badische Neueste Nachrichten in

Karlsruhe. The government is busy clapping itself on the back and asserting that the economic growth forecast for this year is the result of its recent reforms. If only, the paper snorted, adding that it’s going to be a long time before these start to have any real effect.

Let’s hope the Economy Minister’s right, said the Rhein-Neckar Zeitung in Heidelberg. What he’s promising probably isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel – more like a candle in the middle, the daily thought. Clement’s optimistic assessment in no way corresponds to the pessimism felt by the consumer, wrote the paper.

The latest study of German educational standards has also provided some food for thought. In comparison to the disastrous results of the PISA study, which examined secondary schools across Europe, “Iglu” found that in many regions German primary school children were doing well. The Stuttgarter Zeitung said this begs the question of why good primary school pupils end up with serious gaps in their knowledge a few years later. The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung in Essen said it shows that criticism of a system that steers children at an early age into more academic or more vocational schools is justified.

The TZ in Munich was appalled by the discovery that 38% of German 10-year-olds can’t read properly. It’s obvious what kind of a career they’re going to have at school, it wrote; anyone who can’t read won’t be able to spell properly, can’t write out their maths homework, and can’t in fact do any work well that requires background reading. But according to the paper, it’s down to parents to encourage children to enjoy reading and being read to from an early age. Nothing against computers, it wrote, but in order to use those colourful programs, they need to be able to read. It’s wrong to put all the blame on the teachers, said the TZ; parents should be aware that books are as important for their children as good food.