Buyers of Italian debt must necessarily be traders, not long term investors.


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Robert Lenzner, Forbes Staff

I’ve been so absorbed in the coming “fiscal cliff” and the need to square away the $16 trillion in debt with a slow growing economy, I hadn’t given Europe much of a thought until I saw “Girlfriend in a Coma,” former Economist editor Bill Emmott’s documentary film on Italy today– which uses his book, “Good Italy, Bad Italy,” published this past summer.

Italy isn’t even in the top 10, 20, 50, 100 nations as far as economic growth is concerned. It may have Fiat and pasta, and Chianti and numerous profitable family concerns– yet it ranks 180th in the world for economic growth, lodged just between Peru and Brunei, somewhat more emerging nations.

On the issue of corruption (remember the Mafia) Italy ranks 64th in the world, between Ghana and Samoa, suggesting it is missing the necessary ingredients for a civil society.

A related issue is justice, which uses the measurement of how long it takes to enforce contracts , where Italy is 170th, ranking just between Gabon and Djibouti.

“Girlfriend in a Coma” makes it abundantly clear that Italy is far, far behind the US in gender equality. An open air rally attended by Emmott, posing as a kind of “Michael Moore” figure, seems to lack the fire and brimstone we have experienced on our shores. On gender equality Italy ranks 74th in the world.

But, perhaps the worst measurement for Italy is the small number of young adults who go to university. The fact that less than one in five Italians obtains a college education– compared to more than 40% in the US is a drawback for the nation.

By the end of the film– after you’ve witnessed slugging matches in the legislative assembly and understood the difficulty of collecting taxes– after you’ve heard from Sergio Macchione, the boss of Fiat that the 180,000 workers in the Italian auto plants are being subsidized by the much larger number making cars around the world- that you are talking about a nation that has lost its way. Buyers of Italian debt must necessarily be traders, not long term investors.

Italy Is A "Girlfriend In A Coma"- And Falling Behind - Forbes