A few days ago, we reported that, seemingly out of the blue, the city of Rome was on the verge of a “Detroit-style bankruptcy.” In the article, Guido Guidesi, a parliamentarian from the Northern League, was quoted as saying “It’s time to stop the accounting tricks and declare Rome’s default.” Of course, that would be unthinkable: we said that if “if one stops the accounting tricks, not only Rome, but all of Europe, as well as the US and China would all be swept under a global bankruptcy tsunami. So it is safe to assume that the tricks will continue. Especially when one considers that as Mirko Coratti, head of Rome’s city council said on Wednesday, “A default of Italy’s capital city would trigger a chain reaction that could sweep across the national economy.” Well we can’t have that, especially not with everyone in Europe living with their head stuck in the sand of universal denial, assisted by the soothing lies of Mario Draghi and all the other European spin masters.” And just as expected, yesterday Rome was bailed out.
As Reuters reported, Matteo Renzi’s new Italian government on Friday approved an emergency decree to bail out Rome city council whose mayor had warned the capital would have to halt essential services unless it got financial help.
The decree transfers 570 million euros ($787 million) to the city to pay the salaries of municipal workers and ensure services such as public transport and garbage collection. Renzi, under pressure from critics who say Rome is getting favorable treatment, attached conditions to the bailout.
Rome must spell out how it will rein in its debt, justify its current levels of staff, seek more efficient ways of running its public services and sell off some of its real estate, the government decree said. Rome’s finances have been in a parlous state for years and it has debts of almost 14 billion euros which it plans to pay off gradually by 2048.
The city has around 25,000 employees of its own with another 30,000 or so working for some 20 municipal companies providing services running from electricity to garbage collection. ATAC, which runs the city’s loss-making buses and metros, employs more than 12,000 staff, almost as many as national airline Alitalia. Rome’s administrators say it needs help with extra costs associated with housing the central government, such as ensuring public order for political demonstrations, and to provide services for millions of tourists.
Here is the punchline, about Rome’s viability, not to mention Italy’s and Europe’s solvency:
The city of some 2.6 million people has been bailed out by the central government each year since 2008.
What is certain is that this year will not be the last one Rome is bailed out either. In fact, it will continue getting rescued for years to come because contrary to the propaganda, the Italian economy continues to get worse with every passing month, yields on Italian bonds notwithstanding.
Ansa reports that in January the Italian unemployment rate rose to a record 12.9%, and that “reducing Italy’s “shocking” rate of unemployment must be the government’s highest priority, Premier Matteo Renzi said Friday.” How, by pretending everything is ok, kicking the Roman can and hoping things improve by bailing out anyone that is insolvent?
Youth unemployment is particularly vicious, with an average rate of 42.4% in January for people aged 15-24, the highest since 1977, Istat reported on Friday. Reflecting the hard times, Istat also reported that the number of people in Italy who have given up the search for work is still growing. The so-called “discouraged”, who have surrendered to the idea that there is no hope of finding employment, reached an average of 1.79 million people in 2013, growing by 11.6% over the previous year.
Putting 2013 in perspective, this is the year when according to national statistical agency Istat, some 478,000 jobs were lost in Italy in 2013, the worst year since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, with an average annual jobless rate of 12.2% last year. The new year got off to an even more dismal start, with the January jobless rate up 0.2 percentage points over December, Istat said.
Between 2008 and 2013, a total of 984,000 jobs in Italy were lost to the economic crisis – something that is “shocking,” Renzi posted on his Twitter account during a meeting of his cabinet.
“Unemployment is at 12.9%. Shocking numbers, the highest for 35 years,” tweeted Renzi, who has previously described Italy’s unemployment rates as “merciless and devastating”.
And then comes the hope and prayer of change:
“That’s why the first measure will be the Jobs Act,” which Renzi, who formed his executive only one week ago, proposed last month before the leader of the Democratic Party (PD) became premier. Earlier this week, Renzi said he would have his labour reforms and job-boosting measures, based on the Jobs Act, ready before a bilateral summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next month.
Fast action is needed promote business investment, improve labour market efficiency while cutting relevant taxes, Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti said after Friday’s cabinet meeting.
One of the main aims of Renzi’s Jobs Act would be to simplify Italy’s labour system, eliminating many parts of the current myriad of work contracts and lay-off benefits. A key proposal of the package Renzi announced last month, before unseating his PD colleague Enrico Letta as premier and taking the helm of government, is to have a single employment contract with job protection measures growing with seniority.
At present, older workers with regular contracts tend to enjoy extremely high levels of job protection, while young people are often forced to accept temporary contracts or other forms of freelance employment that guarantee them few rights and little job security. The current system has been blamed for making firms reluctant to hire, as it is so hard to dismiss workers once they are on the books, and contributing to the high levels of joblessness, especially among the young. Making the task for Renzi’s government more difficult are grim economic forecasts.
Earlier this week, the European Commission forecast growth in the Italian economy will be weaker this year than previously forecast and the country’s debt as a percentage of gross domestic product will rise in 2014. The EC revised down Italy’s 2014 growth forecast to 0.60% but said 2015 looks brighter, as stronger consumer confidence and external demand boost the economy. It also warned that the jobless rate this year will likely be worse than expected, lowering its forecast to an average 12.6% unemployment for 2014 due to weak labour market conditions and still sluggish demand.
Finally, if all of that fails, there is always war to grow insolvent economies in a Keynesian world. Such as the now annual attempt to stir conflit in the middla east, and, as of this week, Ukraine. Fingers crossed for Italy, and the rest of the “developed world” the Keynesian priests get what they have so long been hoping for.