Challenges for Future Regional Policy in East Germany. Does East Germany really show Characteristics of Mezzogiorno?
Despite extensive government support the gap between East and West Germany has still not been successfully closed nearly 20 years post German unification. Hence, some economists tend to compare East Germany with Mezzogiorno – underdeveloped Southern Italy. East Germany is still subject to sever structural problems in comparison to West Germany: lower per capita income, lower productivity, higher unemployment rates, fewer firm headquarters and fewer innovation activities. There are East German regions with less than desirable rates of development. Nevertheless, the new federal states have shown some evidence of a convergence process. Some regions have developed very positively – they have improved their competitiveness and employment levels. As such, the comparison of East Germany with Mezzogiorno does not seem applicable today. According to Neoclassical Growth Theory, regional policy is targeted enhancing investment (hereafter the notion ‘investment policy’ is used). has been the most important instrument in forcing the ‘reconstruction of the East’. Overall, the investment policy is seen as having been successful. It is not, however, the only factor influencing regional development – political policy makers noted in the mid 1990s that research and development (R&D) activities and regional concentrated production networks, amongst other factors, may also play a part. The investment policy instrument has therefore been adjusted. Nevertheless, it cannot be excluded that investment policy may fail in particular cases because it contains potentially conflicting targets. A ‘better road’ for future regional policy may lie in the support of regional production and innovation networks – the so-called industrial clusters. These clusters would need to be exactingly identified however to ensure effective and efficient cluster policies.