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Economic unity spurs German growing pains

The unification of Germany has already resulted in a booming used-car market, waiting lists for new furniture and serious questions about property rights, a senior German planner said here Tuesday. In a breakfast address to the Tampa Bay International Trade Council, Dieter Mahncke, deputy director for policy and planning of the German Defense Ministry, offered impressions of his fast-changing country.

Eventually, Mahncke said, the new Germany will not be too different from West Germany, largely because of Western orientations through membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Community.

However, Mahncke said, former East Germans will have to learn what democracy is. And, he said, they will have to grow to trust foreigners whom they were conditioned to loathe by old Soviet propaganda.

"Change doesn't happen overnight," Mahncke said. "West Germany had similar problems after the war, and we overcame them."

Mahncke cited a poll of German business leaders indicating that most expect the difficulties of unification to

be overcome within five years.

Mahncke said prices in the used-car market have gone through the roof as residents of the former East Germany rush to get their hands on peppier, more reliable transportation.

Also, Mahncke said, demand for new furniture is so great that people in what once was West Germany are facing delays they are not used to.

"Our standard of living has declined a little bit," he said. "Fortunately, the West German economy is booming, so this is a good time for unification."

The switch from socialism to capitalism in the East has led to interesting property rights questions for people who owned land in the 1940s. Mahncke said the government is working on a process for compensation.

Meanwhile, the work discipline of former East Germans has been worse than expected, Mahncke said.

"We originally thought people who came over would be hard-working," Mahncke said.

"But there's an interesting psychological problem," he said. "They have to fit two hours of shopping into an eight-hour work day. From the days of the bread lines, they learned if you could buy something, you'd want it immediately."