Reforms crucial to save Germansocial welfare system
8 September 2004
BERLIN – Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder defended cutbacks to German social welfare programmes Wednesday in a speech to parliament warning that without changes the entire system would collapse.
“We are undertaking restructuring so our children and grandchildren can enjoy benefits,” said Schroeder whose Social Democratic Party was badly defeated in a regional election last weekend amid anger over the cuts.
Anger has focused on the planned slashing of jobless benefits and there have been weekly protests over the move since last month. Some 75,000 people took part in marches mainly in economically troubled eastern Germany on Monday.
Schroeder pointed to Germany’s economy which is expected to grow by up to 2 percent this year – after three years of stagnation – as evidence that his centre-left government’s tax cuts and healthcare reform was beginning to have an impact.
But he admitted unemployment remained a grave problem. Germany’s jobless rate is 10.5 percent nationwide but over 18 percent in eastern party of the country.
Despite unpopularity of reforms there could be no turning back, Schroeder said.
“We must push forward with changes to the social welfare systems because otherwise they cannot be maintained,” he concluded.
Subject: German news