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Schroder calls for Blue Collar Net junkies

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By happy coincidence, Chancellor Schröder is a former prime minister of Lower Saxony as well as native of Hannover, where he lives in a pleasant house near the zoo, so it was no problem for this local boy to drop by CeBIT to open it. His special theme was jobs, and he hopes that the sector will produce 350,000 in the multimedia sector by 2002. This could prove to be over-ambitious since only 100,000 were created in the last three years. Schroder pointed with some satisfaction to German IT sales of DM220 billion expected this year, an increase of only eight per cent, and said that Germany aims to break the DM300 billion barrier within five years -- a relatively modest ambition. So far as German Internet access plans are concerned, he hopes that the present 13 per cent of the population that can access the Internet will increase to 40 per cent by 2005, but he wants the new users to be wearing the right colour shirt -- there must be blue collar workers, men and women, as well as university graduates. Whether this includes female blue collar workers at universities was difficult for your reporter to determine, such are the complexities of the German language. Anyway, he wasn't going to have a society in which there are two camps -- those with and those without Internet access. Of course this is not social engineering, but we can't at the moment think of what we should call it. Schröder's speech writer also put in a bit about the allocation of UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) frequencies later this year, but no clue was given about the intended German policy. He was on safer ground extolling the need for better security against "acts of sabotage", and said that the government took "a very serious view of these events". Schröder also said he was pleased that AOL was following Deutsche Telekom's example and offering free access in schools. But of most interest to the Germans was his re-iteration of his previous announcement about the Tax Relief Law that was to reduce the tax on business earnings to 43 per cent, and corporation tax to 25 per cent on retained earnings which -- he gleefully pointed out -- is 20 per cent lower than when his government entered office. The top rate of German Income tax will also fall to 45 per cent. Considerable doubt exists in Germany as to whether these measures will be sufficient to attract significant inward investment, and to stop German IT specialists moving abroad. ®

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