Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Italy's a geriatrics hospital whose hall is full of spoiled children

I don't know where to start writing this. It's such a long time I want to shout out all the shame I feel towards the news I read on Italian newspapers, towards the things I see every time I fly to my hometown, towards the attitude of the people I meet with, that I don't really know how to do it properly.

Let's try and put order into the chaotic mix of anger, sadness and deception I feel almost daily. I'll do that just making examples. This post could also be titled What you'll find every day digging into an Italian newspaper or A small guide to survive Italian paradoxes.

Let's open the home page of the two most read Italian newspapers: Il corriere della sera and La repubblica.

Alitalia
Both newspapers open with the struggle of Alitalia. I don't known what a stranger would feel if he tried to follow what's going on with our national airline. History of Alitalia may be both an interesting anthropological and historical study over political corruption and medieval phenomenons such as feudalism. But the result is what's important: years of debts, a great percentage of workers doing absolutely nothing except throwing their shadows on the floor, above the average fees, impossibility of restructuring the enterprise because of the unity and the power of the workers' organizations which want to defend every single privilege they've gained over the years. I'm absolutely favorable to workers' organizations as a mean of organizing and protecting the individuals' rights but I think that every thing's a limit. Your firm is slowly and inexorably sinking with few spikes of vitality artificially produced by injections of liquidity by the State or by some banks and you don't want to face reality. You're going to lose your work and the only thing you can gain protesting is delaying the few possibilities left to Alitalia. For example, what's the point of a (yet another) strike at this stage of the events? Moreover, in Italy strikes are something normal and recurrent just as full moon nights, and they scare nobody.

Global state of economy and people perception
The annual report of the National Institute of Statistics confirms the trend of the last few years. It can be resumed in the following points:
  • a poorer country with even less hope for the future
  • one fifth of the population is over 65
  • population growth produced only for the effect of immigration: of about 488.000 new Italians registered, 494.871 are immigrants which neutralized the -6.868 loss for death
  • the percentage of the population satisfied or quite satisfied for their situation has dropped one year more: 43.7% against the 51.2% registered in 2007.
  • the percentage of the population who perceived a worsening in their situation has raised to 54.5% from the 41% registered in 2007. A 16% of this percentage thinks that their situation has worsened greatly over the last year.
  • the report confirms the great gap and the perception of the differences between the North and the South of the country.
  • 40% of the populations is suffering for chronic pathologies.
  • difficult access to basic services such as Hospitals is perceived by the 55.7% of the population

People asks: what's the government doing?
It's a spontaneous question. Given the fact that Italians aren't great readers, what would they find in the newspapers? News like these, which are daily overlooked by television and by themselves. It's something normal, politicians often steal. Costs of the Politics continue to rise. How? Well:
  • beautiful desktop calendars exclusively designed by Nazareno Gabrielli: 260.000 Eur. More than 200% of the budget for every research about children leukemia coordinated by the City of the hope, in Padova, which, amongst other things, it's hosting the database of children affected by cancer. Another example which is cited by the article is a research of the University of Pennsylvania: according to their data, desktop calendars cost 28.000 Eur more than the salary of the Governors of Colorado, Tennessee, Arkansan and Maine. To-ge-ther.
  • This is funny: Mr. Schwarzenegger salary as Governor of California, which he is not receiving, amount to 162.598 Eur. Less than a Counsellor's one for the County of Abruzzo.
  • Going on with salaries. USA Governors salary is 88.523 Eur on the average. Less than half than what a Counselor receives in Lombardy. Luis Durnwalder, president of the Autonomous County of Bolzano, receives a salary of 320.496 Eur. More than the president of the United States.
The government is unable to resolve the situation. Saying that the barber service is no longer free for Senators sounds like a grotesque joke. The Senate expenses in 2008 amount to 570.000.000 Eur. I repeat: 570.000.000 Eur. Five hundred seventy thousand millions of Euros. 13.000.000 more than during 2007 balance. Some examples? Here they are:
  • 19.080 Eur for the renting of plants and flowers (6 months)
  • 8.200 Eur for stockings (3 months). Yes, it's not a joke. Stockings. Sarah Palin is like Mother Teresa, compared to Italian Senators.
  • 56.000 Eur for shirts (6 months)
  • 16.200 Eur for motor bikers' equipment
  • The best for last: life annuities for non reelected members of the Senate and the Chambers. The official name in Italian is: Assegno per il reinserimento nella vita sociale. As I already said, grotesque.
Summing up: in Italy, during 2008, expenses rose up to 1.998.000.000 Eur, more than in 2007, despite promises of cutting up these kind of expenses. But the goal has finally been achieved: Italian politicians sacrificed and cut the 0.3% of the expenses. Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth achieved a 61% cut in one year but that's another story.

But are these cuts realistic?
No. At the end, on the balance weighs heavy a monstrous number: 2.055.000.000 Eur. And the cuts? They're not there. What's there, is a 5.6% increase with respect to the 2007 balance closings.

Is there any cut?
Yes, as usual: Mr. Berlusconi's government is fond of cutting funds to instruction and research and innovation institutions.

What does people do?
Well, as far as I read and as far as I can see what is thinking the people I met during my trips to Italy: closing their eyes, closing their nose and keep on dreaming the situation is not so bad. Cellular phones, cars, are the good old first class priorities for the average Italian. Look at data and you'll see with your eyes.

My thought.
I just reported data from newspapers but today is no special day, it's the same news I keep on reading year after year. The very sad part of the story is that the population living in Italy seems not to realize the gap which is opening between Italy and other European countries. When I think about this, most of the times I cannot but think that mine, will be the first generation since World War II whose life condition will be worse than its fathers'.

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