ITALY? Time to foget the glory of Bernini, Da Vinci and Michalangelo and look at what is happening now, a venal political elite has brought the country to the point of financial chaos. Here are some telling statistics from “The Telegraph” yesterday.
The Italians can run their affairs as they like (till Brussels takes them over like everyone else) but why anyone ELSE should pay for this nonsense is a mystery.
The MPs earn an average annual salary of €140,000 – almost twice the pay of British MPs and more even than MEPs earn for riding the EU gravy train. Their benefits include generous pensions, free flights and train travel; and MPs share with public officials around the country the use of a government fleet 30,000 chauffeur driven cars, equipped with flashing blue lights to help them cut through the traffic, at a cost to the Italian taxpayer of €2 billion a year.
Nor is it just politicians in Rome who are a burden on public finances. Regional governments drain vast sums from the taxpayer, with the administration in Sicily costing €158 million a year, while the president of the tiny Alpine province of Bolzano, part of the autonomous region of South Tyrol, earns €320,000 a year – €36,000 more than President Barack Obama.
MPs’ reluctance to curb their own lavish lifestyles is mirrored by profligacy throughout the public sector, earning Italy the dubious distinction of having one of the highest debt levels in the world – it currently stands at 120 per cent of annual gross domestic product, second only to Greece within the euro zone …….
The huge reach of the black economy, with vast numbers of Italians failing to declare their taxable income, is a further sign of the impotence of Rome. It is estimated to amount to 27 per cent of Italy’s annual GDP – almost on the same scale as Greece’s legendary tax fiddling.
The most appalling statistic, however, concerns FIAT, and makes you wonder what the future holds for Italy – and Europe.
On the outskirts of Naples, in the shadow of Vesuvius, the town of Pomogliano d’Arco is home to the southern factory of Fiat – the country’s most important manufacturer and the biggest private sector employer. But this is one of the least productive car factories in Europe, turning out just five cars per worker last year – compared to 100 cars a year for every worker at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the UK.
It is kept open only through a combination of government subsidies – in the guise of training grants and skills courses – and huge political pressure. In a region already scarred by Italy’s highest unemployment, the loss of a further 4,400 jobs would be a terrible blow.