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Germany Plans Austerity Budget

November 23, 1999

BERLIN (AP) _ Germany needs years of government belt-tightening to secure its economic future, Finance Minister Hans Eichel said Tuesday as he presented an austerity budget for 2000 in parliament.

Defending the planned cuts, Eichel said Germans had come to expect too much of their welfare state.

``You can’t build castles in the sky with us,″ he declared in a speech opening four days of budget debate in the lower house. ``That would mean lying to the people.″

The budget plan completes Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s initial effort to slash federal spending by $15.9 billion.

The lower house approved about half the savings in other legislation two weeks ago. It is due to vote on the budget Friday.

Eichel noted that his wider plans call for Germany to have a balanced budget by 2006.

``That’s why our fiscal policy looks to the long term, always with the motto that you can only spend what you actually have,″ he said.

Schroeder, a Social Democrat, has made the austerity plans a focus of his effort to turn his left-leaning party toward the political center.

But he has antagonized many core voters, contributing to a series of state election defeats for his governing party since the summer.

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