Today I was in the mood to write my two eurocents worth about my disenchantment with the current economic climate in Italy. Since I live here in Italy, I cannot just sit here and keep silent. I feel it is my duty to say something. The economic crisis in Italy is affecting me on a daily basis just as it is affecting each and every person who lives in this country. “The Personal is Political — the Political is Personal”
Quite recently Berlusconi presented some of his ideas for solving the economic crisis in Italy. This was in the news a couple weeks ago, and most of you probably have heard all the ensuing hoopdeeda in the media. I have something to say about this too.
One of Berlusconi’s “solutions”, which he considers practical, for increasing the economy, is to not make people pay income tax for several years; but this would only pertain those who hold permanent jobs. That’s fine and dandy. What about those who hold part-time jobs, not to mention those who work even fewer hours every week and barely scrape along to survive?! In Berlusconi’s view the people (permanent job holders) will have more money in their pocket and hence it will increase their spending power as consumers. Not a bad idea because it is one immediate practical solution. But he didn’t go far enough. He didn’t go to the heart of the economic problem.
Berlusconi’s “solution” is, in my view, not really a practical solution when you consider it in the broader sense. He never once never mentioned anything about why there is an enormous lack of jobs in Italy? (Incidentally, most journalists on the major media channels don’t seem to highlight this either.) Do you know why? It is because most of the production for Italian-designed goods is now outsourced in the far east, namely China. This has been going on for years: we can thank the globalization machine for crushing local economies all over Europe. Family-owned businesses and medium-sized companies here in Italy are just a few examples. There is more to be said: the agricultural sector in Italy and the small companies in attached to it are suffering too.
In my view, a practical solution is one which engages with the heart of the European economy and the very people who are supposed to support it is, that is, to bring production back to Italy. How to accomplish this? Stop companies—don’t allow them to outsource the vast majority of their production in the far east. Sounds simple, but it really isn’t. You have to consider it took years for companies to set up production overseas and then to dismantle it wouldn’t be so easy either, as it will also take time. But the time to start putting the brakes on is now! The regional approach is, I think, the way to go. By ‘regional’ I mean “Italy”: Italy has to produce goods in Italy for domestic consumption and for export.
Look at the Germany and what happened there since the mid 1990s. The German economy was in an horrible economic crisis. And what did they do? They decided to increase production in their country, i.e regional. And Germany is probably the only country in the European Union that does not have companies outsourcing production to the far east as other EU countries do. Germany is one of the world’s most successful exporting countries. They are second place to China. Does that tell you something? Germany has been successful. Why? Germany committed itself to the regional approach, and this is the approach that Italy has to take if they are to build up their economy again. In my view, Germany is a case to be taken seriously. If the Italian government continues to allow Italian companies to outsource production to the far east, it will only lead to destroying the Italian economy and ultimately the quality of life of each and every person who lives here in Italy.
Bring production of Italian-designed goods back to Italy. And when this finally happens, people here in Italy will have jobs again. And income means increasing spending power. Even if it costs companies more to produce goods in Europe due to them having to pay high social security taxes. Ultimately, this still will benefit everyone including the companies, because the consumers will have money in their pockets. And products can also be exported.
When I walk into a store, I want to see Italian- or European- produced goods on the shelves. Currently I observe—and already for a number of years—that 90% of the goods on the shelves are made in the far east. For instance, when I want to buy ceramics, why is it that I see nothing made in Italy? Ten years ago I could find Italian-made ceramics in abundance in the shops? Not anymore! And that is only one small example. Bring back production to Italy! What is it with these politicians who have the power to change things?
If the Italian government and all the Italian politicians continue to allow and encourage companies to continuously outsource production overseas, it is not good or right for the European people and the European economy as a whole. In the far east, corporations–China is a case worth citing–don’t pay social security taxes for their workers. Production is very cheap! The workers are barely paid anything, they can hardly survive, not to mention the harsh working conditions and the use of children as workers. What kind of example does this set for the rest of the world? Excessively utilitarian? Overall this only creates an unfair competition in the global markets. This has to change.
I hope Berlusconi and all the politicians are listening! The journalists are not much better, they just ramble on in a mundane tone, “people need jobs…companies have to hire more people…we need to do something”. Yes, they are right to point this out. But to merely point it out is not enough. All those journalists out there do not present rational practical solutions either. They have no plan. Do they even try to present some workable plan? No. The left-wing journalists ramble on, on, and on. Talking is nice, but when it leads to nowhere? No solid practical plans are in the works. When will they finally come up with one? Then the right-leaning politicians all say how companies should be given more tax breaks so they can survive and that this will boost the economy. Oh yes, they will certainly survive, especially when they can get goods produced cheaply using pseudo-slave labor. And they then applaud themselves on the back for being able to sell products at low prices to European consumers—earning huge profits—which they wouldn’t be able to accomplish if they used European people to produce the goods. In their minds it’s better to use those poor half-starved souls over there half-way around the world to do all the work. These mega-corporation are in my view are socially irresponsible. But don’t just call the corporations socially irresponsible, when you, the consumer, are also an actor—a complacent one—in the entire scheme of things.
As European consumers of cheaply produced goods, you and I, would be supporting such inhumane treatment of workers overseas—using them as a means to an end. Is that good, and is it right? No, not in my opinion! Immanuel Kant certainly has something to teach us, ALL of us. Is anybody listening? Is it really worth paying less for products produced in the far east when eventually this will lead—it already has—to a breakdown of the Italian economy as well as the European economy as a whole? There is more to be said: if corporations continue to treat workers in the far east in such a degrading manner, don’t think for one minute that it won’t happen here in Europe! Sad to say, I’ve already heard of cases.
So, I ask everyone here in the European Union, not just Italy, who has any scruples, to think twice when they consider buying products produced in the far east. Think about the overall affect it will have on not only your future, but the future of your children. You, the consumer, do indeed have power. Need I say more?
By Karin Susan Fester (c) 2013