If, for once, I write in (my) English, it is because, what I am going to say I have already said a hundred times, and yet I find no trace of a similar diagnosis in the Italian newspapers. Which means that either I am having a nightmare, or my fellow countrymen suffer of an impenetrable cataract. And I dedicate these lines to my English speaking friends, so as to see what people far from my country could think of it.
Italy has been choking in quite serious economic difficulties for about two decades. Once a relatively prosperous nation, it has become – were not for Greece – the last European country, from the economic point of view. For the others they speak of recovery, an awakening of the production and so on, but this springtime wind seems unable to cross the Alps. The reaction of the Italians is two faces. The officials shut their eyes on the reality, and speak everyday of the situation as if it were dramatically improving: “Just wait, and in a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, you will see”. But the citizens see nothing, not even a couple of years later, and are generally convinced that all politicians are incompetent, or dishonest, or both.
They all are wrong.
Politicians like Matteo Renzi are supremely irritant with their preposterous optimism, but, after all, could they say: “We do not know what to do”? “Just pray”?
Citizens should realize that – as the French say – “you sleep following the way you arranged your bed”. Italy has passed an incredible quantity of screwball laws that have paralysed the economy. Think of a 1978 law on housing that provoked the end of the construction industry, in particular the one offering flats to rent. Most Italians (about 80%) now own their home because they could not find a flat to rent. And God knows how many sacrifices it has required to them. But yet many young people do not marry because they have not found a flat, or could not buy a new one.
On the contrary (but to a point) in some cases the State has been more generous than a dead-drunk sailor. Of course at the taxpayer expense, or by increasing the public debt: anyhow creating so the premises for future problems. For instance, during the Seventies, it allowed civil servants holding a degree to retire with sixteen years of work. A forty years old professor received a pension that he could be enjoying still today, still going strong, forty years later. Not a royal pension, of course, but with this kind of expenses the Italian state has ended by having a 2.200.000.000.000€ public debt.
In the job market, Italy has made incredibly difficult to fire a worker that is no more necessary. No matter if he has proved inefficient or even dishonest. The final result is that entrepreneurs protect themselves by not hiring new workers, unless absolutely necessary. And then we cry on unemployment. The Trade Unions have been allowed to organise strikes for political reasons only – sometimes damaging the workers themselves – and to consider their mission to wage war against industry. During many decades – with a left wing mentality – the country as piled such a lump of crazy rules, that in the end the nation has come to a standstill, and no one knows how to make it function again. Where is the rear gear? Who is ever ready to renounce to an acquired advantage? How to fire the workers in excess, in particular in the state administration, when the laws forbid it and when you know very well that those people would not find a new job, nowhere?
In addition, joining the euro has eliminated the old solutions that once helped Italy to come to terms with reality. For one, several devaluations kept the Italian currency at its real level, whereas, with the euro, the Italian goods are dearer that they should be, importations are cheaper that they should be, and no possible solution can be found. Any move could make the situation still worse, and no one dares to cast the dice. Nowadays reviving Italy has become as difficult as squaring the circle.
And that is the central, staggering point. We live in an unmovable, locked drama, and yet the public opinion looks at the finger and not at the Moon. The finger is the narration according to which the politicians could deliver a solution and the people’s capability of believing that the politicians could achieve that miracle. The Moon is the tragedy of a country with unemployment for young workers approaching 40%. We survive day by day, but the ship seems to have no helm.
Yet – who knows? – we could find a consolation, in all this. With the present electoral laws, the next legislature will not produce a real government and then, if the leaders won’t be able to do nothing profitable, hopefully they will not be able to create additional problems.
Gianni Pardo, pardonuovo.myblog.it
July 2nd, 2017
Pardon my mistakes, and when they are big let me know them
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