Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wall Street Journal Reports on Sicily

The financial crisis in Sicily worsens with over five billion euros of debt that the Sicilian Region cannot pay from "regional" funds. It used to be that these "domestic" matters were not widely reported in the international press. Those days are gone.

Following reports on the financial insolvency of Spain's autonomous regions - most notably Catalonia - the Wall Street Journal reports on Sicily's problems and the reasons for them: public sector overspending, corruption, generally poor administration. In effect, Sicily is bankrupt and Rome is tired of bailing out this money pit in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

It's no "secret" when everybody is writing about it, but back in the "old days," before the advent of the world wide web and localized news going global (especially during the last decade), Sicily's politicians managed to keep most of the world in the dark about their antics. It was only the local or national news agencies that reported anything.

But change is good. Monitoring by a presidential appointee is a good idea, though it probably won't be realized until at least September. For now, Prime Minister Mario Monti will begin to restrict some of the endless subsidies being sent down the pipeline to Sicily, with serious cutbacks if the Sicilian politicians don't effect serious changes soon.

The only detail in the WSJ article that is obviously inaccurate is the unemployment rate in Sicily. In realty, it's at least 30% (not the 20% reported) because here in Italy anybody who works even one day of the year is considered "employed." That's obviously a ridiculous standard. Likewise, the Sicilian Region employs far more than 17,000 people, while the Sicilian public sector in general (national, regional, provincial and local agencies) employs several hundred thousand - not that they all actually do much work.

Will this debacle negatively influence your visit to Sicly? Not at all. It's easy enough to ignore the politicians and their cronies. Sightseeing in Sicily is as interesting as ever.

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