Germany: Big Bang, Anyone?

Schroder's surprise proposal to cut taxes could redraw the corporate map--and not just in Germany

Gerhard Schroder is the last guy you'd expect to kick off the wholesale restructuring of Germany Inc. Yet the populist chancellor is desperate to promote economic growth. So with a single sentence buried in his yearend tax reform plan, Schroder has signaled the final breakup of the business-government-labor alliance that has coddled the nation's economy since the end of World War II. If Schroder's proposal goes through parliament as written, after Jan. 1, 2001, banks, insurance companies, and conglomerates will be able to sell their holdings in publicly traded German companies without paying a punitive tax.

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