In Italy, 1000 Companies Go "Belly Up" Each Day

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Since a government austerity plan intended to reduce the risk of a debt crisis and ensure the backing of the ECB took hold last year, Italy's economy has tumbled into one of worst recessions of any euro zone country, and as NY Times reports, among Italy’s estimated six  million companies, businesses of all sizes have been going belly up at the rate of 1,000 a day over the  last year, especially among the small and midsize companies that  represent the backbone of Italy's shrinking economy. With policy "paralysis" now more likely following the recent inconclusive elections, Ken Rogoff warns, "this underscores the likelihood of Italy having a Japan-like decade with phenomenally slow growth," and adds that this raises concerns over "the long-run stability of  growth in the euro zone over all."  Italy’s longstanding problems have grown worse in the last year as tax increases and spending cuts were pressed by Mr. Monti. 50% of small companies - ones with fewer than 50 workers, which constitute the vast majority of Italy’s economy and long provided much of its vitality, that are buckling as banks halt lending and taxes rise - unable to pay their employees on time. With the European Union standing as America's largest trading partner, problems that plague Europe's economy will be felt across the Atlantic.

 

Via The NY Times,

Since a government austerity plan designed to shield Italy from  Europe’s debt crisis took hold last year, the economy has tumbled  into one of worst recessions of any euro zone country, and Mr.  Tedeschi’s orders have all but dried up.  His company, Temeca, is still in business. For now.

 

But among Italy’s estimated six  million companies, businesses of all  sizes have been going belly up at the rate of 1,000 a day over the  last year, especially among the small and midsize companies that  represent the backbone of Italy’s 1.5 trillion euro, or $2 trillion, economy.

 

The situation has become more urgent after inconclusive elections  in February that left politics in Rome gridlocked. "With no one  governing the country, there will be more paralysis, so things will get worse,"

 

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"This underscores the likelihood of Italy having a Japan-like decade  with phenomenally slow growth," said Kenneth S. Rogoff,  a professor  at Harvard University and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. "And it raises painful questions about the long-run stability of  growth in the euro zone over all."

 

And with the European Union standing as America’s largest trading  partner, problems that plague Europe’s economy are felt across the Atlantic.

 

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One in two small companies cannot pay its employees on time, according to CGIA di Mestre, a research institute. With layoffs surging, unemployment rose to 11.7 percent in January. Youth unemployment has jumped to 38.7 percent.

 

The austerity program was intended to reduce the risk of a debt crisis and ensure the backing of the European Central Bank, but instead it left the country with no growth. And without growth, Italy will have a harder time paying down its 2 trillion euros ($2.6 trillion) in debt, one of the largest debt burdens in the euro zone.

 

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But it is businesses ... - ones with fewer than 50 workers, which constitute the vast majority of Italy’s economy and long provided much of its vitality - that are buckling as banks halt lending and taxes rise. Credit issued by Italian banks fell in 2012 to the lowest level in more than a decade. And the government owes an estimated 70 billion euros in unpaid bills for goods and services to Italian companies.

 

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In one and a half years, everything changed,” Mr. Tedeschi said. “People started feeling afraid, and they stopped spending money. All the promises Monti made to relaunch the economy and help us enhance productivity never materialized.”

 

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“When I had to fire those people, I cried,” he said, ...

 

“This is a moment where if you stay alone in this situation,” he said, “you will wind up by shooting yourself.”

 

Mr. Tedeschi’s wife said the family stopped drawing salaries more than a year ago to make payroll for the remaining workers. Disillusioned with the economy’s rapid erosion under Mr. Monti, the family voted for the anti-establishment Five Star movement, led by the comedian turned activist Beppe Grillo, in the February elections, even though they knew it might lead to chaos.

 

“It’s a form of protest,” Lorenzo Tedeschi said, adding that he had been drawn by Mr. Grillo’s plan to cut billions of euros in corruption and wasteful spending. “We need to start from scratch in this country, and he gives us hope that there is a chance to make things equal.

 

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Ms. Tedeschi put her hand on her husband’s shoulder. “We are going through a financial war, which is burying us,” she said. “Will there be any survivors?”