30 July 2003

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Pensions reforms an exercise in learning – Hans Eichel

By Matthew Vella
Finance and Economic Affairs Minister John Dalli yesterday welcomed German Finance Minister Hans Eichel at Auberge d’Aragon. This is the second stop in the German minister’s three-country tour, in which he has already visited Slovenia and will now proceed to Cyprus.
"Learning from each other," was Mr Eichel’s advice on the current pensions crises facing many European economies. He said pensions reforms were on many governments’ discussion tables and that this was a problem facing many EU members. Pointing towards Sweden, as one of the countries with a sustainable pensions system, Mr Eichel said much was to be learnt from the Scandinavian country.
Both ministerial delegations yesterday held a 30-minute discussion in which Maltese-German past and future relationships were discussed, as was Malta’s forthcoming co-operation with Germany as an EU member.
Friendly words came from the part of Mr Eichel, who said a good rapport already exists between both countries, remarking on Finance Minister Dalli’s "skilful interpretation" of Malta’s economic opportunities:
"It has been impressive to see what your country has done so far economically in the wake of EU membership. We are looking forward towards stronger co-operation", Mr Eichel said.
As Germany faces dim signs of recovery from current economic slowdown, it looks like an increase in the Ifo business climate index has shown a rise in positive sentiment about the German economy (see story on page 20). Three successive increases in the Ifo index have indicated the index will go up, but the European powerhouse has been threading on recession for months.
Asked about his personal opinions on the Stability and Growth pact, Mr Eichel said he did not feel it was necessary to change the Maastricht criteria:
"We will do what we can, even though it is not easy for us. Right now, we are going through a strict budgetary consolidation. This will enable us to move towards economic growth and fulfil the Maastrict crteria. Germany’s economic well-being is not only important for us, but also for the EU and for Malta."
Minister Dalli said that in facing the strict rules of adherence to the euro, Malta would not loosen up on any form of discipline. Decisions which will have to be taken to bring us in line with the Maastricht criteria would have to take place, Dalli said, but there was no need for any defeatist pessimism.

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Editor: Saviour Balzan
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