May 09, 2011
BERLIN - Germany's economy is booming, but in Berlin, the change is barely palpable. While the country's southern cities are enjoying close to full employment, nearly 14% of Berlin's labor force is out of work, and more than one in three children under the age of 15 relies on welfare benefits.
"Berlin is the only capital in the world that has a wealth level below the national average," says Reiner Klingholz, head of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development.
Berliners aren't the only Germans that need to worry. Across the country, the wealth gap is increasing – though not along the traditional East-West divide. That axis has shifted, by about 90 degrees, as Germany is now fracturing into a dynamic south and a lagging north: two halves that differ widely when it comes to economics, employment, education and population.
Particularly strong at the moment are the states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg. Between Lake Constance and the town of Bad Tolz, a mixture of well-known corporations and solid middle-class populations are driving growth. Saxony, Thuringia and Hesse, which boasts the financial capital of Frankfurt, are also part of Germany's power center.
The other former eastern states, as well as Lower Saxony, Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia, are less equipped for the future. The only exceptions to the north-south division are Saarland and Hamburg. The small southern state of Saarland, with its old coal-mining regions, belongs to the have-nots, while Hamburg in the north sits atop the prosperity ladder.
Population "theft" fuels southern boom
Of the 20 counties and cities with the best prospects in terms of economic momentum, labor, and population, 15 can be found in Bavaria and three in Baden Wuerttemberg, according to a study by the Berlin Institute. Two of the cities, Jena and Postdam, are located in former East Germany.
Potsdam was able to make considerable advancements in recent years by attracting mostly well-heeled families from the nearby capital of Berlin. And Jena, along with Dresden, Leipzig and Erfurt, are among the few East German cities with a promising economic development. In the rest of the east, things still look gloomy.
Because the south currently has the best job opportunities, it attracts hordes of young people from other parts of Germany. Klingholz refers to this phenomenon as "demographic theft." After reunification, more than a million East Germans have moved west. Many are on the move again, this time heading south. The western region of Lower Saxony, for example, has lost nearly 470,000 people.
Bavaria, in contrast, has gained some 670,000 citizens, according to current data from the Federal Institute for Population Research (BIB). "It is mainly the 18- to 30-year-olds who move south, either to study or because of a job," says BIB researcher Stephen Kühntopf.
Most are well-educated women. As a result, northern regions are not only losing workers but also potential mothers. This is a looming demographic catastrophe: many communities are aging, and as a result, playgrounds are left deserted, schools closed. It is no wonder that young doctors in the north are unwilling to take over practices that are opening up. As they lose out on families and doctors, regions such as Eastern Harz or Prignitz are becoming less and less attractive to newcomers.
Of course the fast-growing regions in the south are not only benefiting from internal migration. They are also attracting immigrants from abroad. The Federal Statistical Office forecasts a net immigration of 640,000 people to Bavaria by 2030.
The role of R&D
One of the most important factors in determining the future viability of a site is investment in research and development. In this regard, the North-South divide is only increasing, according to data gathered by the Donors' Association for German Science. Bernd Keuels, the author of a study called "Germany as a Divided Research Country," refers to this as the Matthew Effect: "To him who hath, shall be given," he explains.
The states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, and Hesse, Keuels explains, are home to intensive research. In these areas, economic growth significantly boosted research spending between 1997 and 2007.
Despite the economic differences, the German government is still attempting to create uniform living conditions across Germany. In 2010, nearly 7 billion euros from Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hesse, and Hamburg were re-allocated to the 12 other states.
But financiers are frustrated. The Bavarians, who had to shell out nearly 3.5 billion euros last year, are pushing for change. "We can't have other states receive this compensation money and spend it on benefits that we don't even allow ourselves," said Bavaria's finance minister George Fahrenschon (CSU).
This criticism is aimed primarily at Berlin, which receives almost 3 billion euros – by far the largest slice of the financial pie, part of which it uses to waive student fees and fund numerous social programs.
Is there any hope that the historically poorer states will ever catch up? So far, Bavaria is the only solid example.
Family businessman Randolf Rodenstock, who ran a long-established optical group in Munich for many years, has seen Bavaria rise from a backward agricultural country to an economic powerhouse. "An important factor in this growth was the post-war immigration from the East," he explains.
"Those who were displaced were mostly well-qualified. Many established their own farms and contributed to the rise of today's middle class structure," recalls the 63-year-old. "Even companies like Siemens settled here. Later on, the government supported the development of new industries, such as aerospace."
In any case, the Bavarian state has always been interested in economics. Additionally, business and entrepreneurship have always been valued by its citizens. "In the 60s and 70s, these were by no means universal values throughout the Republic," says Rodenstock.
Today, the state boasts 28 universities, including two leading universities, 12 Max Planck Institutes, seven Fraunhofer Institutes and three Helmholtz Institutes. The research landscape is only matched by that of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria's eternal rival.
Population expert Reiner Klingholz does not believe that Bavaria's rise can be copied. "Bavaria got on board at a time when growth was guaranteed throughout Germany." Baden-Württemberg, instead, long ago recognized the incredible potential of immigrants. In Stuttgart, there has even been a "Pact for Integration" for the last decade.
Still, the South's continued ascendance is far from guaranteed. "We must not sit back and be complacent," says Rodenstock, who is also president of the Bavarian Business Association. "We can do a lot of things better. What also matters is how we stand in terms of global competition, not just within our own country."
Successful states in Germany, in other words, would do well to compare themselves to California and Shanghai, and not just to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Bremen.
Read the original story in German
photo - Piero Fix
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Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.
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Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
October 22, 2021
Welcome to Friday, where Joe Biden vows to protect Taiwan from China, Alec Baldwin accidentally kills a cinematographer, and can you guess what day it is TODAY? We also have a report from a researcher in San Diego, USA on the sociological dark side of food trucks.
[*Zdravo - Macedonian]
Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry may be set to ease, or get much worse
The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before, writes Persian-language media Kayhan-London:
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.
Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.
Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.
He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."
The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.
Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.
Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."
The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."
Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."
Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.
Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.
Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.
For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Biden vows to defend Taiwan: U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if it were attacked and had a commitment to defend the island nation that China claims as its own. The White House clarified for the second time in three months that U.S. policy on the subject has not changed, and declined further comment when asked if Biden had misspoken.
• Call on China to respect Uyghurs: A statement from 43 countries denounced China's human rights record at the United Nations over the reported torture and repression of the mostly Muslim Uyghurs, as well as the existence of "re-education camps" in Xinjiang. The declaration calls on Beijing to allow independent observers immediate access. In response, Cuba issued a rival statement shortly afterwards on behalf of 62 other countries claiming "disinformation".
• Alec Baldwin fires prop gun, kills cinematographer: U.S. actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza after discharging a prop gun on the set of his new movie, near Santa Fe. The accident is being investigated.
• Berlusconi acquitted: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was acquitted of judicial corruption charges. The 85-year-old media mogul had been accused of seeking to bribe guests present at his infamous "Bunga Bunga" parties to lie about the evenings as part of an underage prostitution case.
• COVID health workers death toll: A new WHO working report estimates that between 80,000 and 180,000 health and care workers may have died from COVID-19 between January 2020 and May 2021. The same report also noted that fewer than 1 in 10 healthcare workers were fully vaccinated in Africa, compared with 9 in 10 in high-income countries, and less than 5% of Africa's population have been vaccinated.
• Seven killed in Russian gunpowder factory blast: An explosion at the Elastik gunpowder and chemicals plant southeast of Moscow killed at least seven people, while nine are still missing.
• Aye aye, CAP'n: HAPPY CAPS LOCK DAY, FOLKS!
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Dutch daily De Volkskrant pays tribute to "sound master" and renowned classical conductor Bernard Haitink, who died at 92. Born in Amsterdam, Haitink made more than 450 records and led some of the world's top orchestras in the span of his 65-year career.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
The food truck, a sign that the white and wealthy are moving in
In San Diego, California, researcher Pascale Joassart-Marcelli tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun. In The Conversation she writes:
🥡 In 2016 in City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice). Just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors — who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets — now face heightened harassment.
🤑 Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation. Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure. It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies.
🏙️ My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44. When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
The remains of "Big John," the world's largest triceratops skeleton ever found, were sold at auction for a European record price of 6.65 millions euros in Paris to a private anonymous collector from the U.S. The 200 pieces of the skeleton were unearthed in 2014 in South Dakota and reassembled by specialists in Italy.
👮🎮 IN OTHER NEWS
Police bust Mexican drug gang recruiting boys via online video games
Police in Mexico have intervened to rescue three minors, aged 11 to 14, from recruitment into a drug gang that had enticed them through online gaming.
A top Mexican police agency official Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, said the gang had contacted the youths in the south-central city of Oaxaca, chatting through a free-to-download game called Free Fire, which involves shooting at rivals with virtual firearms.
Calling himself "Rafael," another player of the same age, the suspected gang member offered one of the youths work "checking radio frequencies and watching out for police presence" in Monterrey, northern Mexico, reported national daily El Heraldo de México. The pay was unusually good — 8,000 pesos (almost $400) every two weeks — and the youth called two friends who also wanted to get in.
The three boys were set to take the bait, but an anonymous Mexican intelligence agent following the exchange while also posing as youth playing Free Fire, ultimately led police to a safe house in Santa Lucía del Camino, outside Oaxaca.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back."
— U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to defend Taiwan if it came under attack from China, an assertion that seems to move away from the U.S. stated policy of "strategic ambiguity." His administration is now facing calls to clarify this stance on the island.
📸 PHOTO DU JOUR
Paramilitary soldiers are conducting a check operation in Indian-administered Kashmir, following a spate of targeted attacks on the region's Hindu minority that have left at least 33 dead since early October. The region, claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, has been the site of a bloody armed rebellion against India since the 1990s — Photo: Adil Abbas/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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