Kohl hopes to cut jobless figures in half by year 2000

 

The German Chancellor, Dr Helmut Kohl, yesterday painted a rosy picture of the country's economic prospects, claiming that his goal of halving unemployment by the year 2000 remains attainable.

Speaking during an emergency Bundestag debate on the economy, Dr Kohl predicted an improvement in the job market but called on Germans to sacrifice overtime payments to create 200,000 new jobs.

"This is a question of solidarity on the part of those who have work with those who are unemployed," he said.

Official statistics published in Bonn this week predict a rise in the unemployment rate this year to 11 per cent of the workforce more than four million people. If those people on work experience schemes and training projects are included, the figure rises to six million.

The Chancellor called on opposition parties to co operate with the Government on attempts to reform Germany's tax and pensions systems.

However, the Social Democrats (SPD) chairman, Mr Oskar Lafontaine, insisted that his party would only support the tax reforms if they were radically altered to favour the less well off.

During the course of the debate, members of Dr Kohl's Christian Democrats made common cause with the SPD over plans to overhaul Germany's expensive pensions system.

The Labour Minister, Mr Norbert Blum, offered to "march arm in arm" with the SPD to defend his proposals for reform from an attack by his own coalition partners in the Liberal Free Democrats.

Yesterday's debate followed two weeks of noisy bickering within the Government over how to deal with Germany's economic problems. Amid rumours that both Dr Kohl and Mr Blum threatened to quit this week, the Green Party leader, Mr Yoschka Fischer, suggested that Bonn may be nearing the end of an era.

"It looks like the twilight of a Chancellor," he said.