Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Italy's problems

Most Italians are incredibly complacent (and totally ignorant) about the economy. I find this rather worrying considering the lamentable state it is in. Here is a lucid overview:
Over the years, the Italian economy, sliding further into stagnation, has grown accustomed to bleak reports. Recently the national association of industrial enterprises, Confindustria, issued a damming forecast for one of the most dynamic exporting regions of Italy, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. It showed that 63 percent of enterprise managers in the region were expecting stagnant demand and 70 percent saw no potential for increases in employment over the next 12 months. Overall, Italian production has been in a decline over the last year, with industrial output shrinking by 2.3 percent in annual terms between June 2004 and June 2005. With such a gloomy mood taking hold of the more productive parts of Italy, how bad are the expectations in the forever-sick regions of the Southern Mezzogiorno?
Yet leafing through the Italian press, one gets a feeling that all of the country problems are either due to some external factors or the cause of insufficient fiscal spending. If only by a miracle, the US, Germany and France were to grow at a faster pace… or the Euro were to be replaced by the Lira… or the evils of globalization were to vanish by a wave of a magic wand… or the Left-Centre coalition were to come back into power and spend its way out of the recession… the jobs and the demand for Italian goods will mushroom. Playing ostrich - a favorite pastime for many Europeans - is becoming a rival sport to Italian soccer.
Despite an affinity for denial, the ailments afflicting the Italian economy are Italian-made. From a regional development perspective, two major problems plague Italy: fiscal recklessness of government and the structure of ownership in the economy.
It is too bad that it has to be this way, but evidently things need to get a whole lot worse before they can get better; maybe then Italy will find the energy for reform.

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