Interview with the Lord Mayor of Halle
The following conversation with Klaus Rauen, CDU, Lord Mayor of Halle, was broadcast by Deutschlandfunk on May 29, 1994, as the interview of the week. The interview was conducted by Gerd Breker:
Deutschlandfunk: Last month, ladies and gentlemen, the members of the German Association of Cities, in a dramatic manifesto, issued an appeal to save Germany’s large cities. They decried the housing shortage, rising crime, and a growing financial crisis. Today we want to inform ourselves about the problems of one large East German city. Klaus Peter Rauen, you’re the lord mayor of the largest city in Saxony-Anhalt, the city of Halle on the Saale River; you’re a member of the CDU. Mr. Rauen, in 1990 Halle had around 320,000 residents. Are there still as many, or has the migration to the West caused a drop in Halle’s population?
Rauen: Unfortunately, we only have about 300,000 residents right now; that is, we’ve lost about 20,000, with the largest share of this population loss dating back to the period immediately after the Wende, when, of course, there was a very abrupt outflow of people; this development still hasn’t come to a complete standstill, but it’s no longer a stream, just a trickle, and that’s reassuring. It’s not only emigration that worries us, however, but the numbers; the population figures can only really be understood if one realizes that the birthrate has also been cut in half; that’s to say, deaths are exceeding births. Far fewer children are being born, and more people are dying because the older age cohorts have grown in strength, so this is causing a negative balance as well. Thus, this negative population trend is combining with emigration, and together these two factors are leading to losses that are not disproportionately high in Halle; the situation is similar in other large cities.
Deutschlandfunk: Mr. Rauen, four years ago, you yourself came to the Saale from Bonn on the Rhine, where you were city manager. Therefore, you’re familiar with the difficulties of municipal government in both East and West. If you think back to your first personal impressions, what stood out as being different in the East compared to the West?
Rauen: Let me put it very matter-of-factly. It was the catastrophic state of the cities with regard to infrastructure, the condition of buildings, and the state of industry and commerce. Now, I have not yet mentioned the psychological factors, which surely also contribute to this difference, if one looks at the people. I simply want to describe these external conditions. When – as in Halle, for example – in a city relatively little damaged by the war, there are 11,000 vacant, uninhabitable apartments in the downtown area, a dreadful legacy of the GDR, then it becomes clear – and these apartments would house 35,000 to 40,000 people – that these cities suffered to an extent barely imaginable to those in the West. And when one knows that the infrastructure – to name just one example – in a city like Halle would require an outlay of 2 billion in the area of wastewater plants alone, partly to build non-existent sewers, to repair existing ones, to restore completely inadequate wastewater treatment plants, then these examples might make clear how hard these cities have been hit at the core, and how difficult it is for these cities to catch up with their Western partners to some extent.
Deutschlandfunk: You’ve already mentioned the high costs for a municipality. Let’s turn to the financial situation as such, namely to the income side of cities. The Institute for Economic Research here in this city [Halle] has estimated that for the year 1992 the income taken in by East German cities in trade tax will only amount to 8% of what will be taken in by the West. The Institute has calculated that the share of the income tax for municipalities in the East is 26% of what is taken in by the West, and even with respect to the earnings-unrelated property tax, the tax revenue for cities in East Germany is only half that of cities in the West. Can you confirm this trend for your own city, and what does this paltry revenue really mean for communal self-government?