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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
German leaders clash over flood aid
Woman pushes bike along flooded road
The cost of the floods runs into billions of euros
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his conservative rival Edmund Stoiber have clashed in parliament over an aid package to help the victims of this month's devastating floods.


Our reconstruction pact worth about 10 billion euros to repair flood damage is a powerful investment and stimulus programme

Gerhard Schroeder
In a special debate in the lower chamber, the Bundestag, Mr Schroeder submitted a plan to raise 10 billion euros, saying the floods had caused the worst destruction in Germany since World War II.

The money, he said, would flow directly into the economy, creating jobs and spurring growth.

Click here for latest poll ratings

But Mr Stoiber said high taxes damaged economic growth and destroyed jobs.

Tax cuts and help for the victims was his party's strategy, he said.

Rebuilding from scratch

BBC Berlin correspondent Rob Broomby says the chancellor set out to make a good impression in parliament, just days after he failed to outshine Mr Stoiber in a pre-election television duel.

According to Mr Schroeder, 180,000 homes have been flooded and 740 kilometres (460 miles) of roads have been destroyed.

The rebuilding of Eastern Germany had been set back years, and in many regions people would have to start almost from scratch, he said.

But from the reunification of Germany had come the unity of the Germans in head and heart, he added.

Borrowing in disguise

Correspondents say the government's record in dealing with the floods has wrong-footed the opposition, which has said it will not block Mr Schroeder's plan to delay tax cuts, even though it objects to it.

With less than a month to go before a general election, most opinion polls still put the conservatives ahead of the Social Democrats - though the floods have helped Mr Schroeder narrow the gap.

The conservatives' short-term plan to finance flood assistance using central bank profits, was widely criticised as borrowing in disguise, and rejected by the bank itself.

The final cost of the cleanup could be as high as 15 billion euros for Germany alone.

Some money has already begun to flow to those affected.


Graph showing opinion poll ratings for two leading parties

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tristana Moore
"Who will pay for the damage?"
The BBC's Rob Broomby
"Twelve point programme for flood help "

European havoc

Germany ravaged

Prague drama

Freak phenomenon?

FORUM

TALKING POINT
See also:

25 Aug 02 | Europe
25 Aug 02 | Europe
23 Aug 02 | Europe
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