Wanted: a Few Good Bureaucrats

Eastern Germany seeks out western administrators to deal with mounds of forms, new laws

WEST German bureaucrats, often on the receiving end of criticism, find themselves to be suddenly the country's darlings. Their administrative expertise, it turns out, is desperately needed in east Germany.

One can point to several bottlenecks holding up investment in the east, but a key stumbling block is the inability of local governments here to deal with the multitude of new rules and regulations that came with unity last October. On top of this, many of the adopted west German regulations are unsuitable to the situation in east Germany, local administrators complain.

The result is that mountains of applications for business licenses, building permits, and bids for property are piling up unprocessed in city halls. What government here needs, mayors say, are more experienced administrators from the west to help sort out this mess.

``See that?'' asks Erfurt Mayor Manfred Ruge, motioning toward a foot-high stack of papers on his desk that renews itself daily. ``Those require personal answers from me, and that's the stuff that's already been screened.''

One of this energetic east German mayor's chief administrative problems is that people in the lower ranks aren't used to making their own decisions. ``A lot comes up here'' - here being Mr. Ruge's mammoth office in Erfurt's gothic Rathaus, or City Hall.

Ruge says he could use seven to 10 west German administrators to work with his department leaders. Helmut Haustein, the only western transplant in the Erfurt city administration at the moment, says the city needs 40 or 50 more. There is an acute need for western know-how in such areas as budgeting, economic and federal law, and organization, Mr. Haustein says. ``The new laws,'' he adds, ``are difficult.''

Bonn responded to the crisis last week by passing a package of incentives to encourage more government workers to move east. The measures promise quick promotions, pay increases, monthly bonuses of 1,500 to 2,500 marks ($860 to $1,440), travel money for semiweekly trips back home, and training opportunities for east Germans in the west. A ``bureaucrat-exchange'' office has been set up in Berlin to match people with positions.

Some argue, however, that the incentives are not enough to counter the disadvantages of inferior schools, tight and substandard housing, and heavy pollution. They propose a mandatory one year tour of duty.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl is against compulsory service, warning that it could appear humiliating to the east Germans. Ruge heartily agrees. ``We want people who want to come here,'' not people who are forced.

During reunification last October, west German laws were simply extended to east Germany. But local governments here are discovering that the west German way is not always appropriate.

Matthias Wambach, spokesman for the city of Gera, gives an example. Gera lies along the main highway that stretches across the industrial region of southern east Germany. The Gera exit, which at the moment cuts through the city's industrial area, is to be rerouted. City officials, however, cannot complete plans for development and investment in the area until getting the all-clear from federal and state authorities.

But the procedure could take five to 10 years if the west German highway approval and planning procedure is followed, Mr. Wambach says. Gera, which expects 50 percent unemployment soon, cannot wait that long.

``The exit must be approved this year so we can begin building, at the latest, next year,'' he says.

Still, it is not all black clouds inside local government here. Two months ago, cities and states in east Germany were on the verge of bankruptcy. Thanks to an immediate infusion of cash from Bonn, local governments here say they have enough to get them started on major building and renovation projects.

Erfurt, a decayed relic from the Middle Ages and the capital of the state of Thuringia, has 60 million marks ($34.5 million) to work with this year. That is more than enough, says Ruge, who is on the verge of awarding contracts to start broad repair and renovation efforts in the charming, but dilapidated city.

Ruge expects a building boom to begin shortly in Erfurt, though this would not be possible were it not for a recent decision at the Treuhandanstalt in Berlin. The Treuhand, the government agency charged with privatizing former East Germany, is returning all city buildings and property to municipalities.

About 1,000 single-family and two-family homes sit on plots owned by Erfurt, says Ruge. Their owners, he explains, have not been able to get credit for renovation because they do not own the land. Now, the city can sell these plots to the homeowners (at affordable prices, Ruge says) and the ``renovation boom'' can begin.

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