Florence's Mayor Discusses World's Economic Woes

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Michele Norris talks with the mayor of Florence, Italy, Matteo Renzi, about how the world economic woes are affecting his city.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

It's not just presidents and prime ministers who are worried about the European financial crisis. The global financial woes are also affecting cities large and small throughout Europe. For one slice of the picture, we turn now to Matteo Renzi. He's the mayor of Florence, Italy. Mayor, welcome to the program.

MATTEO RENZI: Hello, everybody, and good evening.

NORRIS: Now, as you well know, yesterday, Moody's put Italy on a sovereign credit watch. And I'm wondering what that means for a city like yours, the city of Florence?

RENZI: Obviously, this is not good news. This is a problem also for our city but particularly for our country. I think this is bad news also because the problem in Italy is not only the economic situation. The problem is the lack of a vision by political leadership. And this is a problem also for the cities and for the country.

NORRIS: How has the downturn hit your city? How do you see signs of the recession throughout Florence?

RENZI: For Florence, the last (unintelligible) of our economy. For example, very interesting signals. For example, the reduce of unemployment in this moment at 5 percent. And also, the very good performance by traditional companies. And I'm very glad and very happy because the most important company in Florence is an American company, General Electric. It's called Nuovo Pignone. But our problem is debt. We must improve the quality of economy in Florence.

The risk is the presence of a big public debt around the country. You can think when a child in Italy is born, obviously, everybody is happy. But it's incredible to think about this: Every child is born with 51,000 euro of debt - more or less $42,000 - because the old generation left us a very big public debt. So the reason of downgrade is not only for the present, for the euro crisis, but also for the public debt and the lack of a vision by the central government of Italy.

NORRIS: Mayor Renzi, you are relatively young, and your leadership style could not be more different than Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is in his mid 70s. Last week, the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, won approval for austerity measures, and there were protests throughout the country. You've been very outspoken about the current leadership. Is Italy's current political establishment out of step with what's needed in a fast-changing global economy? I've heard a lot of criticism, even in this conversation, of the current leadership. Where have they gone wrong?

RENZI: I think really there are two problems about Silvio Berlusconi. First of all, there are problem based on his age. Silvio Berlusconi is 75 years old, and my grandmother, Anna, is 80 years old. So I mean, with all respect for Berlusconi and with all respect especially and (unintelligible) for my grandmother, Anna, I think this is a time for a change for a new generation. Second problem, obviously, I am shamed as a public servant because my country needs trust and not scandals.

But I'm ashamed also as a father because I have two children. And, Michele, it's very sad, women's representation, also women's humiliation. So I think the big (unintelligible) for us is create a new generation of young public servants is really to change the things not with the ideological approach, but a new generation able to give a future for our country. Our past is beautiful, but we love also our future.

NORRIS: Mayor Renzi, it has been a pleasure to speak to you. All the best to you. Thank you very much.

RENZI: Thank you very much, Michele.

NORRIS: I've been speaking with Matteo Renzi. He's the mayor of the city of Florence in Italy.

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