German Finance Minister Hans Eichel has backed Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's criticism of people who abuse the country's social welfare system, saying that Germany can no longer afford to hand benefits to those who don't really need them. "We can't afford tax evasion or welfare abuse and have to concentrate on those ones that cannot help themselves," he told the
Neue Presse newspaper in Hanover. He added that tax evasion costs the state about €350 billion ($429 billion) a year. "We could not only stop incurring additional debt but also lower taxes" if the state were to receive the money, he added.