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15 August 2013

Italy: the ticking time-bomb at the heart of Europe

So that's the economy sorted, then. 

Jobs, growth, investment, exports – all on the up! Of course, the usual caveats apply, all that stuff about long-term challenges, underlying weaknesses and so on. Still, the next two years are looking good – and for shallow political types, that’s all that really matters.

There is one cloud on the horizon, though – the remnant of a storm that most people think has blown itself out. Simon Johnson, writing for Bloomberg is not so sure:

What could possibly go wrong? The answer to that is Italy:

Does all that debt really matter? As Johnson reminds us, other “countries have grown their way out of even larger debt burdens.”

Unfortunately, the Italians have a long-standing problem with growth as well as debt:

This looks like a fundamental weakness, one that started well before the financial crisis and which will continue long after it:

A lot of this is down to regional variations within Italy:

The implication is that deep-down cultural change is required, of the sort that could take a generation or more – which means no quick fix for Italian debt:

And if interest rates don’t stay low for a long time? Right now, the Eurozone is in a strange situation where low interest rates suit all member states. But there are signs that the healthier economies will be back on their feet soon – at which point they’ll be needing higher interest rates.

Thus it could be recovery, not recession, that tears the Eurozone apart.


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