Fri Sep 9th, 2005 at 10:56:13 AM EST
It is actually quite amazing to consider that Germany is one of the "engine's of Europe, and the world's largest exporter, larger by far than China. And yet only 15 years ago West Germany had to financially integrate East Germany under the re-unification. How many countries could continue to do this well, all the while trying to integrate a population who lived two generations under a whole other kind of governmental system? There is an interesting and lengthy discussion of this in the BBC World News Waiting for the East to Flourish
It's been 15 years since Germany's reunification, and the once communist east of the country is still in the economic doldrums. But it could be here that the next general election - just a week away - could be decided.
The statistics are bleak.
Germany's 'Aufbau Ost' - the rebuilding of Eastern Germany - has cost an estimated 1.25 trillion euro (£843bn, $1,550bn) so far.
Despite the capital injection, the East's unemployment rate is still 18.6% - in many regions it tops 25%. The economy grows by about 5.5% a year, but from a very low base - and that is not enough to create many new jobs
As a result the East is emptying. Since unification some 1.4 million people have moved to the West, most of them young and well-educated.
The question remains, what else does Germany need to do, to improve employment conditions in the old "East Germany", and what kind of factors will be involved in that?
Here are some of the factors involved:
One East German man is quoted: "The market economy can't solve our problems," he says, "big business is just grabbing the profits without accepting any responsibility."
He is not alone; 73% of East Germans believe that Karl Marx's critique of capitalism is still valid, according to a recent poll by news magazine Der Spiegel.
The PDS, successor to the East German communists and now campaigning as "The Left Party", is expected to get more than 30% of the vote here. (...)
In West Germany the average working hour costs 28.14 euro; East German companies have to spend a third less, just 17.15 euro, according to Cologne's Institute of German Industry.
Combined with cheaper living costs and a brand-new infrastructure, the East is getting attractive for some investors.
Already a new chemical industry is emerging around Leuna, an automotive industry is re-energising Dresden and Eisenach, while Jena attracts a cluster of firms and know-how in precision engineering, opto-electronics and biotechnology. But it won't happen fast.
What needs to happen in the meanwhile? What would help make things better for the people in East of Germany?