Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bankrupt? Italy's Crisis & La Dolce Vita

Italy, the third-largest economy in the eurozone, while in trouble (read the insightful ABC News article published yesterday), probably won't reach the "meltdown" point of Greece, but changes are inevitable, beginning with the prime minister. Most changes will be budget cuts and tax increases. And perhaps a few more street protests, mostly by public-sector employees.

From a recent AP story: "Italy's economy is hampered by high wage costs, low productivity, fat government payrolls, excessive taxes, choking bureaucracy, and an educational system that produces one of the lowest levels of college graduates among rich countries."

Italy has more public employees than most European nations (per capita). The occasional street protest is a way of life here in Sicily, and in Italy generally, so for most visitors it's an annoying but "acceptable" inconvenience. The sights, sites and monuments will still be open.

That's not to suggest that the effects of the economic recession in Sicily are not evident to those who live here, but for the most part, Italy's economic problems aren't something you (as a visitor) would actually see unless you scratched beneath the surface. Even unemployment, though a statistical reality, seems "invisible" here in Italy. That's because most "young" people live with parents until marriage or placement in a decent job, even well into their 30s, so despite high unemployment there aren't a lot of homeless people about or, for that matter, twentysomethings struggling to pay the rent. And it's true that the restaurants are always full - of Italians, not just tourists - while Italians rarely deny themselves a vacation abroad. La dolce vita is alive and well in Italy. Viva l'Italia!

No comments: