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Counterfeits killing Italian economy PDF Print E-mail
Oct 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM

ImageA new study claims that the counterfeit industry - bags, jewelry, brand name shoes and clothing, dvds, cds, watches and watches - is costing the troubled Italian economy something like 110,000 jobs.

 I am not sure how these things are calculated but the research carried out by the Censis think tank and the Italian ministry of Development would appear to be unequivocal. Not only would there be that many more jobs if counterfeiting didn't exist, it says. But the Italian government would take in some 1.7 million more euros in taxes and the Italian production would increase sharply, by 13.7 million euros.

The study says that there is no longer any product that cannot be duplicated and sold on a black market estimated to be valued at 6.9 billion euros, approximately nine billion dollars. This is divided among various sectors: clothing and accessories (€2.5 billion), food products (€1.1 billion), cds, dvds and software (€1,8 billion) and other counterfeits, (€1.5 billion), including that of cosmetics which has grown 15-fold over the last ten years.

It's clear, the study says, that this sector, for the most part in the hands of organized crime, represents a threat not only to the well being of many normal enterprises but to the Italian economy as a whole. "It is standing in the way of recovery" says Massimo Vari, undersecretary at the Economic Development ministry.

Italian women climbing up the corporate ladder...very, very slowly PDF Print E-mail
Oct 25, 2012 at 06:59 PM

A recent study by the Egon Zehnder consulting firm shows that women in Europe now occupy over 15.6% of the seats on the boards of directors of the 353 groups that are worth over four million euros on European stock exchanges.

This may not sound like much but since 2004, there has been a fourfold increase and the change is therefor considered very significant.

As for Italy, here, too, this country has lagged behind much of the rest of Europe. In Italy, only 10 percent (10.6%) of the boards of directors of the 256 largest listed companies on the Italian stock exchange included  are women. 

But optimists nevertheless consider it is a great improvement, and say it shows that companies are moving to see to it that the  women presence on such boards is starting to climb towards the levels set by a new law that went into effect on August 12. The law's goals are for women, first to reach 20% and subsequently two thirds of the positions, on company boards of directors.  The law has set off a debate over whether quotas are useful or not. 

Italians in for rough economic ride PDF Print E-mail
Sep 27, 2012 at 12:30 PM


Mario Monti, Italy's premier, yesterday told the United Nations' General Assembly that from a financial point of view, Italy is out of danger. Let's hope he is right but the fact is that the economic situation here is not good and could get worse.

Admittedly, the crisis, la crisi as it is called here, is generally not visible to the casual observer, or even to the not so casual observer, at least here in Rome where I live. Restaurants seem full (although many patrons could be visiting tourists, who are EVERYWHERE!!!), beggars, who for the most part appear to be gypsies or Slavs, seem to be about the same number as before, andyou are not seeing boarded up store fronts or even the same number of empty stores that you now see in Athens. But the statistics tell another story, and it is not a happy one.

The fact is that, says the Consumers' organization, Codacons, that Italians are feeling the pinch to the point that currently they are spending the same amount on food as they did 33 years ago. The decline in per capita consumption by more than three percent "is the worst in the history of the Italian Republic", the organization said on Tuesday, describing the situation as "tragic". It added that the fact that the only supermarkets that are making as much money as they did in 2011 are discount stores, means that many Italians are hungry or at least are being forced to choose cheaper products and to stop buying the leading brands that have always played an important role in keeping the Italian economy going.

The decline in consumption began in 2007 and has continued to slip, now arriving at the levels of 1979. If austerity measures continue - some pensions are being curtailed, or at least there is talk of such a development, and the government has also suggested cutting salaries in the public sector and gas prices are still rising, then things could easily get worse. Add to this the fact that the growth rate of the Italian economy has been stagnant since 2002....

The merchants' association had announced earlier the same day that consumer spending would fall over 3% in 2012. It said that in terms of sales only the phone, computer and supermarket-discount sectors would hold up this year.

Two Italians are among Europe's ten richest people, but France has even more. PDF Print E-mail
Aug 03, 2012 at 05:51 PM

Europe's richest person, Ortega Gaona
According to a survey carried out by Wealth-X for the U.S. TV station, CNBC, the ten richest people in Europe are headed by a Spaniard, Amancio Ortega Gaona, whose $40 billion company, Inditex, controls, among other things, the Zara chain of department stores. But despite the problems troubling the Italian economy, it still can boast a fair number of business genius'.

Michele Ferrero, head of the confectionary company that produces both the gold foil-wrapped Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Nutella (which is to Italy as peanut butter is to our own country) is number five on the list with a company worth $16.4 billion. Leonardo Del Vecchio, the founder and owner of the eye-glass company, Luxottica, figures seventh on the same list with a personal estate of $13.6 billion.

France's four Rockefellers are Liliane Bettencourt (L'Oreal et al) with $23.8 billion who is in third place, Bernard Arnault, ($23.7 billion), in fourth place and whose holdings include Louis Vuitton e Moët & Chandon, Givenchy, Dior, Fendi, Tag Heuer, and Donna Karan. In sixth place is Francois Pinault ($14,2 billion) the head of PPR which contols, among others, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta , Alexander McQueen, Artemis wines, the Christie's auction house and Palazzo Grassi, the prestigious Venice museum. Serge Dassault ($11.5 billion) of the aviation group of the same name is number eight.

The list also includes three Germans. Karl Hans Albrecht, number two, who is a co-owner of the Aldi supermarket chain that is present in 17 European countries, and his two nephews , Berthold e Theo Albrecht, who are ninth and tenth on the list, each being worth each worth something like just over $11 billion.

So you think you’ve got (gas) problems? PDF Print E-mail
Apr 08, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Image Fuel prices have climbed sharply in the United States in recent months, at the end of March reaching an average price of around $3.90, with peaks of well over $4.20 in various parts of the country. This represents a real problem for drivers and also for the economy as a whole. But you think you've got it bad? The price per litre (a litre is somewhat less than a quart) of unleaded benzina in Italy now stands at over $2.30, which works out to between nine and ten dollars PER GALLON. Gas prices have always been MUCH higher in Europe than in the United States, primarily because of the weight of government excise taxes and other duties. But now things are getting ridiculous!

Gas still costs more in Norway than it does in Italy but recently, the Economist pointed to Italy as the country where fuel prices have increased more over the last year than anywhere else (even Greece), between 18 and 19% to be exact. Other countries where the price of gas has increased by more than 10% over the last calendar year include Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Ireland, United States, Slovenia and Canada. And whereas taxes represent only 11% of gasoline in the United States, in Italy, thanks to recent austerity measures, it now represents an unprecedented 60% .

But even if the latest increases in Italian gasolineprices are related only in small part to the cost of crude oil or to vicissitudes in trading, they are having a serious impact on consumers, gas station owners, and the automobile industry as a whole. A TV broadcast I happened upon this morning said that gas sales at the pump have dropped in recent weeks by 20 percent, that new car registrations were down by 26% in March, falling to 1980 levels, and that - partly because of gas price rises and partly because of the ongoing crackdown on tax evasion - purchases of luxury cars are way down. One of the speakers said that since car dealers must sell six small cars to have the same added value as with one luxury saloon, the outlook for the Italian car industry was very, very bleak, indeed.

Italian workers among the poorest paid in Europe PDF Print E-mail
Feb 29, 2012 at 10:12 PM

ImageEurostat, the European Union's statistics branch, has completed a study on European salaries that confirms what Italy's labor unions have long held, and that is that Italian workers are paid considerably less than their counterparts in most other European countries. According to the study, only workers in Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia are paid worse than Italian workers whereas all the rest, including near-bankrupt Greece, pay their workers more. 

The average annual gross (pre-taxes) salary of an Italian worker is 23.406 euro, the equivalent of $31,182. Even workers in troubled economies such as Greece and Cyprus earn more than that the study showed. The best paid workers are in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany. (see the chart below).

One implication of this is that the government's new austerity measures are likely to caue a lot of pain here. These include a new and higher property tax, which once again will be applied to people's primary residence (Berlusconi had done away with this tax), higher VAT (a sort of sales tax on all transactions of goods and services) and higher gasoline prices. Today it cost me €12.5 euros to fill up my moped's gas tank; only a couple of months ago it cost be €10. On the weekend, driving up the Autostrada, I stopped for coffee and  got into a conversation with the two barmen, who were complaining about the country's establishment. I asked them how much they made and they said 1100 euros a month. I don't know if that was gross or net but either way it would be impossible for a family of four to live on that.

The Eurostat study also showed that in Italy salaries rose since 2005 by only 3.3% as opposed to by 29.4% in Spain, 22% in Portugal, 16.1% in Luxembourg, 14.7% n the Netherlands, 11% in Belgium, 10% in France and 6% in Germany. Another sign of how little economic growth there was during the last several years.

Average gross annual incomes in 2009




BELGIUM 40.698

IRELAND 39.858


FRANCE 33.574

?AUSTRIA 33.384

GREECE 29.160

SPAIN 26.316

CIYPRUS 24.775

ITALY 23.406



MALTA 16.158


Tax raid in luxury Italian resort delights most Italians PDF Print E-mail
Jan 06, 2012 at 01:48 PM

And about time, too!

On December 30, 80 tax inspectors descended on the luxurious winter resort of Cortina D'Ampezzo in the Italian Alps and brought about a Christmas wonder. Cafes, restaurants and stores selling luxury goods that a year earlier (and two years earlier as well) had done vey little business, suddenly saw their daily earnings increase by from 300 to 400 percent. "Miracolo!", a miracle, the newspapers trumpeted. Actually, there was a more terrestrial explanation for the sharply increased revenues: The arrival in town of the inspectors clearly led all these businesses to ring up all sales on their cash registers instead of unobtrusively slipping bank notes into the cash drawer.

Italians should know: Europe is watching! PDF Print E-mail
Oct 30, 2011 at 03:13 PM

Snide smiles about Berlusconi

A visitor would never guess it. On the surface, life continues here in its usual pleasant way. Here in Rome, people are enjoying a few days of mild weather sitting outdoors, drinking their aperitivi and chatting happily on their cell phones. Aside from the coastal areas of Liguria in the northwest, where floods last week caused disastrous mudslides that killed at least nine and caused vast damage to areas like the Cinque Terre, many Italians appeared more concerned about the recent death of  a young motorcycle racer than about their faltering economy and a financial mess that is threatening both this country and Europe as a whole.

Appearances, of course, can be deceiving. The number of young people who turned out for what was meant to be a peaceful march two weekends ago, indicated that many people gave little or no credence to Premier Silvio Berlusconi's repeated assurances that all was well here and that there is, instead, much to worry about. Years of sluggish economic growth has created an extremely worrisome situation and new statistics show that this September the rate of unemployment for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 climbed to 29.3%, up more than a percentage point since August and at its highest level - one out of three - since January 2004.  True, many of these young people could find work if they were willing to take the jobs their fathers and mothers held, such as short-order cooks, waiters, plumbers, house cleaners, strawberry pickers and so on; the jobs that ae now held by immigrants from other countries who don't turn up their noses at honest work. But it is clear, that Berlusconi will now have to stop with the pollyanna act for there is cause for real alarm. 

Italy's "excluded" generation PDF Print E-mail
Jun 19, 2011 at 04:13 PM


Anyone visiting Italy will have an impression of a healthy economy; restaurants are filled (although largely with tourists, perhaps), produce is heaped on the shelves of groceries and supermarkets, cars and expensive motorbikes crowd the roads, there is absolutely no one (well, almost) without a cell phone and the streets of the country's major cities are lined with clothing shops galore that advertise prices that are not exactly low end.

But things are not always what they seem. The salaries of many people are amazing low, adding to the mystery of how so many people here manage to survive and, quite often, with considerable style. The public debt is the highest in Europe, so high - in January it reached 1.879.926 million euro, or almost 120% of GDP-- that is hard to imagine how it can ever be made manageable. An incalculable number of people and businesses cheat on their taxes, making it difficult for the government to fund many of its projects.

And Italy's younger generations are the principle victims. A week ago, at the yearly meeting of young entrepreneurs at S. Margherits Ligure (near Genova), Bank of Italy Director General, Fabrizio Saccomanni, presented a new, and disheartening study, entitled "The Excluded Generation"

Here are some depressing but highly indicative data:

-As of December 2010, the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 15 and 29 in Italy was 20%m four points higher than the European average and 11 points higher than in Germany.

-Young Italians entering the job market are have a 55% chance of finding only short-term employment with no real job security.

-20% of Italians between the ages of 15 and 34 are working but have only a short-term contract.

-Only 19% of Italians between the ages of 30 and 34 have a university degree compared to an average of 32% in Europe as a whole.

-And most amazingly, today 40% of Italy's 30-somethings are living at home with their parents. The comparable figure in 1980 was 16%, A sign that things are definitely getting, not better, but worse.


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