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CHEAT SHEET: Italy’s Debt Crisis
November 8, 2011
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European governments have been facing down economic disaster for a while now, with a heavy focus on Greece. Now Italy is in the spotlight. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government is still in power, but they are losing ground as more calls come in for the PM to resign. Here's a quick overview from the experts of the current economic and political situation in Italy:

How Did We Get Here? Italy Tried Hard in the 90s, Then "Slacked Off"

According to AP Business writers David McHugh and Colleen Barry, Italy worked hard to improve its economy in the 90s. Then they gave up:

"In the 1990s Italy made a mighty effort to shape up its hidebound economy and qualify for the euro. Then it slacked off... It didn't have to come to this. Unlike much smaller, bankrupt Greece, Italy has a big, modern and industrialized economy. But the country still has the world's third-largest debt pile and the worry is that it is no longer productive enough to keep paying it off."

Berlusconi Is "Among the Chief Reasons" for Financial Attacks

The New York Times' Elisabetta Povoledo says that some believe Prime Minister Berlusconi is largely responsible for the current attacks on Italy's economy, despite his claim that he needs to stay in power:

"The Prime Minister has reiterated repeatedly that the coalition must stick together. No less than the future of the euro and Europe is at risk [Berlusconi says]. But critics counter that Mr. Berlusconi is among the chief reasons for the financial attacks on Italy. The scandal-plagued Prime Minister, who is on trial for corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with a minor, has worn away what had been left of his international credibility, they say."

Even Some of Silvio Berlusconi's Allies Now Think He Should Resign

Al-Jazeera is reporting that Silvio Berlusconi's closest political ally is now joining calls for the Italian Prime Minister to step down, which might well lead to the defiant leader finally doing so:

"Umberto Bossi, head of the Northern League, which has provided parliamentary support for Berlusconi throughout his almost two-decade political career, said he should be replaced by Angelino Alfgano, secretary of the Prime Minister's Popolo della Liberta (PDL) party. Berlusconi has until now remained defiant, refusing calls from all sides to step down. But Bossi's call could tip the balance against him."

Italy is Nearly at the Bailout Point, Just Like Portugal, Greece and Ireland

Barry Moody and James Mackenzie of the Toronto Star say Italy is now nearly at the point where other European countries needed to be bailed out, and that this should be cause for concern about the eurozone as a whole:

"...interest rates on Italy's debts have soared to levels that are causing deep concern about the survival of the eurozone if its third largest economy cannot service its debts. Analysts said Italy was reaching the point where Portugal, Greece and Ireland had been forced to seek a bailout."

The Markets Think Italy Will Be Better Off Without Berlusconi at the Helm

According to CNBC, international markets will be much happier if Berlusconi steps down - especially if he's replaced with a government that is only "technical":

"The markets are making it clear they think Italy will be better off financially if the country's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, steps down. There is a growing consensus there may have to be a 'technical' government in Italy, with the key characteristic being they don't care about reelection."


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