Informational Tour 'Overcoming the Financial and Economic Crisis' | 2010

Is Debt a Bad Thing?

The global financial and economic crisis, the start of which is usually associated with the collapse of the American Lehman Brothers bank, has been a central talking point for governments and civil societies around the world since. The serious impact of economic bubbles calculated to burst; discrepancies in monetary policy, speculation havoc in the financial sector and high-risk-taking bank managers have unleashed debate and counter-measures to an extent not seen in decades.
How the financial crisis has been dealt with and overcome in Germany is being regarded, for the time being at least, in a relatively good light. Just take the so-called "JobWunder" (Job Miracle) – term applied to the sudden increase in unemployment that has still yet to appear unlike in other countries – which is in this context a frequently discussed phenomenon.

In this respect, journalists worldwide aren't only offered valuable insight by the German example. The country's situation is often sector-specific: a country strong on export with a broad, high-cost social security system, a distinctively structured banking sector and comparatively large proportion of medium-sized companies making up the overall economic output. Germany is exemplary when it comes to being integrated in the global workings of economic mechanisms.

Germany has therefore been a worthwhile object of study for the 15 journalists from twelve countries who took part in the Informational Tour. The broad spectrum of participants in the group assured very animated and informative discussions. It was quickly clear that the causes and effects of the international crisis can be grasped quite differently from the German or say, European outlook. Judgement of heavily export-orientated Germany, qualitative assessment of debt, the options of measures and regulations to stimulate the economy among other things therefore depend on national interests and on historical and cultural perspectives as well.

With this in mind, the until now rather successful measures implemented to stabilise the economic situation as seen specifically in Germany, were the subject of in-depth discussion; centred mostly on the federal government's economic package, short-time work regulations, bank rescue, domestic consumption and it's stimulation and the general availability of loans. Given current circumstances and of course the important points surrounding EU-currency or EU issues, the "Greek question" and possible consequences were also discussed in detail.

A wide programme covered numerous visits to ministries, various banks, municipalities, the financial press, trade unions and also included talks with academics. The rest of the programme was made up of cultural events that, for example, included historic memorial sites in Berlin; Frankfurt am Main's banking district and a visit to the Zollverein colliery in Essen. They too played their part in throwing light on how the German economy and politics have been influenced by significant historical and cultural backgrounds.

The high standard of participants' professional expertise from academic and political fields of well-known newspapers and radio stations made for an intense week of input, often with quite in-depth facts, figures and statistics. As a result, increasingly well-informed questions and discussions concerned with the specifics of the German situation and politics were addressed. This couldn't be better illustrated than during the very detailed rounds of discussions that brought the week to a close in the Rheinisch-Westfälischen Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI Essen, German economic research institute of North Rhine-Westphalia).

A serious and at the same time tongue-in-cheek conclusion to the Informational Tour was summed up by the philosophical question asked by a participant on what was easier to forecast: the weather or economic trends. It is the weather as it follows the laws of nature. The economy however is directly influenced by human actions and it is these which are often unpredictable.