Who is Going to Pay the Bill? (来源：英语学习门户网站EnglishCN.com)
The floods that have ravaged（破坏）parts of Central and Eastern Europe
may leave more than physical devastation in their wake. Financial
damage to businesses and homeowners will likely run into billions of
dollars. But there is one group that will be footing an unexpectedly
small proportion of the bill: insurance companies.
Consider these sobering（严肃的）statistics. In the 1999 floods in Bavaria, which
caused $416 million in damage, the insured share of the loss was less
than 10%. And when parts of the Czech （捷克人）Republic were flooded in 1997, wreaking almost $2 billion in destruction, insurance covered only
20%. "There will undoubtedly be substantial economic loss caused by
the current flooding, but the insured loss is expected to be significantly
lower," says Ivo Menzinger, head of the Flood Group at the insurance
giant Swiss Re in Zurich. "This is largely due to the low penetration of
flood insurance in the main affected areas of Austria, the Czech
Republic and Germany."
In Britain, flood insurance is generally built into a standard "home contents
cover" package. Elsewhere in Europe, however, this type of
insurance is sold separately. As a result, only a small number of
people affected by the heavy weather may be insured against it — and
even then, their coverage is unlikely to stretch very far. In Germany,
which has so far sustained an estimated 7 billion in damage, fewer
than 3% of all households are covered for floods. Things are better in
the former East Germany, where old state-run schemes offered flood
cover as standard, and some of those policies are still in effect. In
Austria, about half of all insured households are covered for floods —
but only up to between 5,000 and 10,000 per home. The Austrian
Insurance Association estimates insured losses for this disaster will be
in the region of 100 million, while total losses could hit 3 billion.
The onus （负担）will be on European governments — many of which are
already short of cash — to pick up the tab.（账单；全部费用）It won"t be easy last week 。Austria said it may have to delay tax cuts and trim defense
spending in order to meet flood expenses. Germany has authorized a relief
package, comprising 1400 million in aid as well as loan guarantees.
But such measures could leave Germany and other countries in
breach of the conditions of the European Stability and Growth pact,
which says that the budget deficit of euro-zone states cannot go above
3% of GDP. To be sure, economists say there is a provision（条款）in the
pact that permits member states to breach（不履行）its conditions under
extreme circumstances. But even before the floods, the pact had been
under pressure. Portugal has fallen afoul （冲突）of deficit（赤字）restrictions, and some other nations are struggling to meet them.
Nevertheless, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, soon to face
voters at the polls, promised that more money will be forthcoming. The
European Union has also swung into action, saying it will provide up to
260 million to the Czech government. The E.U. is examining ways to
release funds to Austria and Germany, as well. With water still rising in
some places and many people uninsured, those affected by the floods
will need all the help they can get.