Political Stagnation, Slow Economy Hold Back Italy As the debt crisis in Europe developed, some analysts suggested Italy was a potential target for bond traders nervous about their investments. While Italy does have a massive national debt, its banks are in good shape and it did not suffer from the same property speculation as Ireland or Spain.
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Political Stagnation, Slow Economy Hold Back Italy

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Political Stagnation, Slow Economy Hold Back Italy

Political Stagnation, Slow Economy Hold Back Italy

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Italy's economy is a paradox. Italians are big savers. Household wealth is one of Europe's highest. Homeowners are a majority. Yet there was no real estate bubble here. Italian banks are solid and don't need government support. Yes, public debt is one of Europe's highest, but at least half is in Italian hands.

M: What's really missing in Italy is growth.

POGGIOLI: Economist Luigi Spaventa is a former budget minister.

M: For 15 years, we have been growing less than the rest of Europe. Our relative position has deteriorated uninterruptedly. Our recession has been steeper than that of other European countries.

POGGIOLI: This is why Italy has hardly any foreign investments, and future prospects are grim. Economist Pier Paolo Benigno says a key obstacle is society's indifference towards its young.

M: It's not a country where young people can think to have a dynamic future like that is in other countries, opportunities for work satisfaction and life satisfaction.

POGGIOLI: Two and a half million young people - 16 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 34 - neither study, nor work, nor are they looking for a job. They've been dubbed the missing. And two-thirds of young people still have no choice but to live with their parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

U: (Italian spoken)

POGGIOLI: For the last month, Italian cities have been rocked by demonstrations by students protesting drastic budget cuts in education. Nationwide, young people demanding a better future have taken to occupying hard-to-reach university rooftops.

M: I don't feel we have dignity here.

POGGIOLI: Marco Beneduce is in his last year of biology. He's among a group of Rome University students camping out on a Roman roof. The weather has been cold and rainy, and they take turns sleeping in two small tents.

M: I'm going to leave Italy in order to work, to have a better life. But I'm staying here on this roof because I want to fight 'til the end to make things better. I don't want to leave beaten by this government.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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