Panicked Over Rise of Reunited Berlin, Paris Battles for Status as Star of Europe
FOR Paris, being beautiful may not be enough anymore. The city boasts broad boulevards, splendid museums and public monuments, 300 groomed and flowered parks, 86,000 trees, and a score of bridges so often photographed that they could claim supporting actor nominations in a spate of recent Hollywood films.
For most of France's 1,000-year history, Paris has been France's undisputed political, cultural, and economic center. And for several centuries, it was arguably the most influential city in Europe.
After World War II, the economic imbalance between Paris and the provinces (dubbed "the French desert" in a popular text of the period) was so great that a new bureaucracy was set up to help send businesses elsewhere in France.
But now the City of Lights is looking for business for itself - and is not ashamed to say so. In the last 10 years, Paris has lost a third of its large businesses, some 30,000 industrial jobs - mostly to the new industrial suburbs that ring the city. In the same period, the greater Paris region lost 430,000 industrial jobs and saw more and more Japanese and American firms locate in Germany rather than France.
But to Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi, it makes little difference whether a business moves to Berlin or to La Defense, a modern office complex four subway stops outside the Paris city limits. Loss of businesses means loss of tax revenues and jobs for Parisians.
This year, the city expects to pay a soaring $1.2 billion out of its $6 billion annual budget to support the unemployed. About 13 percent of the city's workers are jobless, and 11.4 percent in the Paris region as a whole. The city also pays $700 million a year on subsidized housing. "All the rest has gone to make the city beautiful. But the priority of priorities for this new mayor is creating jobs," says City Hall spokesman Thomas Saugnac.