Archives

When world leaders met in recessionary Venice

Just because Venice was hosting the 1980 G7 economic summit didn't mean it didn't have the same problems as cities everywhere.

Italian city popular with tourists hosted the 1980 G7 economic summit

World leaders at the economic summit needed look no further than the host city to see evidence of how inflation had affected everyday life. 1:50

Just because Venice was hosting the 1980 G7 economic summit didn't mean it didn't have the same problems as cities everywhere.

"The most terrible [problem] is inflation," said Ken Colby on CBC's The National, reporting from the Italian city on June 22, 1980.

Inflation then stood at about 20 per cent in Italy. But in the "tourist city" of Venice, the number was "closer to 30," he said.

Throngs of people were seen crowding the Piazza San Marco, and a gondolier was shown at work ferrying people on one of the city's famous canals.

Food increases, gas hikes

Few Venetians ate in the outdoor cafes of their own city, noted the reporter. (The National/CBC Archives)

"Few Venetians eat in the cafes," said Colby. "An ordinary lunch can cost $15." (That's about $47 in 2020.)

Wages had not climbed with inflation, and even an apartment "in some of the poorer districts" could cost about one-third of the average wage, said the reporter.

The reason for Italy's inflation was much the same as it was in other countries: "The soaring price of oil."

Italy depended on imports for virtually all its energy needs. As the camera travelled on a motorized boat along a canal about to pass under a bridge, Colby explained just how expensive oil had become.

"Gasoline here is now almost $5 a gallon," he said. That's the 2020 equivalent of more than $4 per litre.

Spending less, bargaining harder

Buyers at family-owned fruit stands like this one in Venice tended to bargain a little harder, said reporter Ken Colby. (The National/CBC Archives)

"Now, recession in the western world threatens to cut tourist spending," said Colby.

In Italy's industrial centres, the recession meant layoffs and rising unemployment. But in Venice, many of the businesses were "small family affairs" instead.  

"The results of recession are customers who spend less, who bargain harder," said Colby.  

The problems the summit was discussing were reflected by those of the people of Venice.

"Inflation has robbed their money of its buying power," said Colby. "And now recession threatens their earnings."

now