"Whisper it softly ... Germany is coming back"

Reply Sat 15 Apr, 2006 10:41 am
And this a TIMES report Shocked :wink:

The Times April 15, 2006

Whisper it softly... Germany is coming back

By Roger Boyes

Germany is out of the doldrums as economic reforms boost wealth and confidence. Now all it needs is to win the World Cup

NEVER write off the Germans. As every English football fan knows, they don't know when they are beaten.

Only a few months ago, the country appeared to be staring into an abyss. The Government was paralysed after inconclusive elections and the economy, Europe's largest, was in recession with more than five million out of work, and the most powerful companies were awash with corporate sleaze.

Relations with the United States were at their lowest ebb after the war in Iraq, and Germany had been placed firmly in "Old Europe" by critics despairing at the EU's stubborn refusal to modernise. It was, to put it mildly, a bit of a mess.

Yet this week the dubious title of Sick Man of Europe was handed, without great ceremony, from Germany to Italy, and in Berlin at least there was palpable relief. With chaos in Rome, a nervous crisis in Paris and with the Blair era drawing to a close, Germany is emerging as Europe's rising star.

You feel the change in your bones, says 38-year-old Beate Lindner.

"We're not the bottom of the heap any more and it feels good," she says.

Frau Lindner, a single mother with a 14-year-old son, Martin, has had some lean years as a travel consultant, but now business is looking up. The Chinese are coming, the Americans have discovered German modern art as a tax write-off and the British and Irish want second homes in Germany.

Germans are abandoning their traditional pessimism and are becoming upbeat about their country. Pop songs burst with national pride. A new marketing campaign sells Germany as a Land of Ideas. The Berlin cityscape brims with shiny, metallic sculptures boasting of Germany's greatest inventions: from oversized aspirins to huge adidas football boots.

The football World Cup, which takes place in Germany this summer, is the focal point of the country's rejuvenation, the moment when rising national self-esteem merges with a cash bonanza and a quiet optimism. A German Pope and a German World Cup win, muses the bestselling psychotherapist Stefan Grünewald, would signal the rebirth of national self-confidence.

Preparation for the World Cup has become a national metaphor. Jürgen Klinsmann, the former Spurs striker who now manages the national squad, has side-lined Oliver Kahn, the grumpy veteran and national icon, and handed the captain's armband to Michael Ballack, a midfielder of extravagant skill and film-star good looks.

So Germany has moved from defence to offence, from stolid experience to youthful innovation. The word is out: Germans do not have to win the cup this time round but the spectators want a bit more flair.

Whether Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, sees the national mission quite in those terms is unclear. She has gone on holiday (to Italy) promising to accelerate reform on her return. This is a decisive juncture. Germany is ahead of both France and Italy in the reform cycle.

Gerhard Schröder, her predecessor, began overhauling the welfare state three years ago, and paid the political price. His downfall came not through dramatic Paris-style street protests but rather in the drip-drip of regional election losses. His authority eroded like limestone.

Frau Merkel is ready to exploit this legacy as surely as Tony Blair benefited from the groundwork laid by Margaret Thatcher. Businesses sense this is about to happen, which is why Frau Merkel's popularity ratings among managers is still above 70 per cent.

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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 15 Apr, 2006 10:42 am
part 2
That managerial confidence is inspired by politicians who now seem capable of making decisions. After 13 years of public argument Berlin is going ahead with a new airport capable of handling 20 million passengers a year, to compete with Heathrow and Schiphol. The long overdue move will transform the role of the German capital in Central Europe. That demonstrates a commitment to the future that has been lacking since the early days of German unification.

The raw economic figures are good. Germany is still the world's top exporter, GDP growth is up and could reach 2 per cent, inflation is dipping below 2 per cent. The IFO business confidence index is at its highest since 1991. Consumer spending is up. It is a dramatically different picture from Italy and France.

But the real alchemy of the brief Merkel era is in the use of the negative figures. The five million unemployed leeched blood from the dying Government of Herr Schröder. For Frau Merkel, they have become the ultimate cosh with which to beat the unions. Despite a flutter of resistance, the unions have been marginalised.

Corporate Germany has been changing faster than the rest of the country. It is now enough for a company to threaten to move a factory to Poland for German workers to abandon a wage dispute. As a result, the unions have become pussy cats. The average number of days lost annually through strikes (nine days per 1,000 workers) is significantly lower than in France (129) or Italy (82).

Productivity is up and the work ethic is back. "We're like the English now," says Frau Lindner. "We work hard and we play hard." She is planning two further holidays this year: one to France and one to America.

And no wonder: the money is suddenly there. Average senior managerial salaries are now €251,000 (about £176,000), just behind Britain and well ahead of France (€116,000).

It is this rapidly evolving attitude to work that is sowing optimism. Around 1.7 million Germans have taken second jobs earning up to £275 a month on top of their full-time salary, typically as office cleaners or as freelance events organisers. More and more companies hire people on fixed-term contracts. As a result, trade unions have lost their ability to dictate wages, says Peter Schnur, of the IAB labour market monitoring unit.

The effect is liberating. Since leaving school, 22-year-old Nicolas Ceder has already set up internet cafés, helped to open a bar and published a free magazine. He is now importing Swedish stretch benches to help Germans with back problems. "You do meet people now who are willing to take risks," he says. "And though the reforms may be small they are forcing people to push themselves harder to get employed. That makes a big difference to the national mood."

A journalist friend has helped to launch two magazines in the past three years, Cicero, a political journal, and a lifestyle glossy, Park Avenue. Both are doing well. Now he is working on a third. That would have been unthinkable five years ago. Advertising budgets are flush and publishers are willing to take risks.

Optimism, the essential component of a rebound, is almost impossible to measure. But chocolate sales have hit record highs and property prices are picking up in key cities and beauty spots. Holidaying at home used to be a sign of poverty. Now Germany is the German's top tourist destination.

In the 1960s in the midst of the first Economic Miracle, Germans could not wait to pack their Volkswagen Beetles and drive to Lake Como. Now Italy seems less attractive than staying at home.

Economists and psychologists call this the Merkel Miracle. It stops some way short of the Blairite revolution unleashed in 1997: people still are fearful and there are still a great many obstacles to change. But something has changed in the relationship between state and individual; personal initiative is being rewarded and that is boosting spirits. Unlike France, a majority of the nation no longer wants a career in the civil service.

"This is Germany's chance," says Christoph Schlitz, of Die Welt. "Who else is there to lead Europe but us? The British Government is in a state of permanent agony, the French are blocking themselves and the Italians look wobbly."

Germany by numbers

82 million population

£17,000 GDP per capita

£850,000 billion subsidy from West to East Germany since unification

300 pints of beer drunk per person per year, more than any other country

25kg of sausages eaten annually per person, about a quarter of a pig

3rd largest economy in the world after US and Japan

11.6 per cent unemployment

5,000 neo-Nazis paraded in Dresden last year on anniversary of Allied bombing

2.4 per cent of population is of Turkish origin

3.7 per cent of population is Muslim
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Reply Wed 19 Apr, 2006 04:39 am
Walter,I hope this is meant as a joke and NOT as propaganda.

"£850,000 billion subsidy from West to East Germany since unification"

That's what you do when you join a herd ( the EU ) the strongest support the weakest.

"300 pints of beer drunk per person per year, more than any other country "

That's nothing to be proud of!

"25kg of sausages eaten annually per person, about a quarter of a pig"

Fat bastards!

"11.6 per cent unemployment"

All German nationals,because the Turks and Muslims and any immigrant from a "third world country" will be prepared to work for less.

"5,000 neo-Nazis paraded in Dresden last year on anniversary of Allied bombing "

God help us.Were they all quoting pages from Mien Kamph(sic).I would have thaught this is something you would have wanted to keep under wraps.Or are the uniformes and arm-bands being manufactured as we speak?

"2.4 per cent of population is of Turkish origin"

Try their kebabs instead of stuffing yourselves on sausage!

"3.7 per cent of population is Muslim"

I bet the Vatican is quaking in it's boots.NOT.

I realy hope your heart wasn't behind this post.[/quote][/quote]
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