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Italy in 2009: What Can You Expect?
My father, who immigrated to the United States more than 40 years ago, always says that when the United States is suffering, Italy is suffering more. Recently, my father hasn't always been right. The American dollar was weak compared to Italy's euro. Thanks to its place in the European Union, Italians who visited the United States were benefiting from the exchange, whereas Americans - those who had the cash anyway - went to Italy and could barely afford eating. Today, things are bad for everyone. Everyone is wondering what next year is going to bring.
In Italy, there are low expectations. Consumer confidence fell in Italy for a third consecutive month in December 2008, according to think tank ISAE as reported by Reuters. Italians - like the rest of us - are worried about their jobs and the economy. The Italian manufacturing declined for the tenth consecutive month, according to reports. The country is not alone. Much of Europe's manufacturing is in dire straights. The United States is facing the worst recession since the Depression.
With Silvio Berlusconi, a brilliant businessman, as Italy's prime minister things should be looking up, right? One would think that's the case. One would hope that's the case. But George Bush, Berlusconi's pal, holds an MBA, and he wasn't able to help the economy. There is a possibility that Berlusconi and other world leaders will be more successful if Barack Obama and his team make progress as promised. Only time will tell for any of these leaders.
One thing is for sure. Italy, like the United States, needs to help its people by making groceries affordable, making necessities available, beefing up its manufacturing, creating jobs, and developing a stronger, safer economy. This will not happen overnight and is going to require lots of changes across the globe.
I'm not an economist, but I do think a few things needs to happen for Italy to get back on track. For one, the United States and other European Union leaders need to get back on track. In addition, Italy needs to take a look in the mirror, decide what its place in the EU and greater economy should be, and work at fulfilling those responsibilities. For too long, Italy has ridden the coattails of other economies. Its government is notoriously unstable for a civilized, industrialized nation.
The country itself is even at odds about its economy. For years, the more profitable and industrialized north has been suggesting a split between the north and the south. The north, which runs without siesta lunches and lengthy vacations and is home to many of the major industries (cars, fashion, etc.), feels like it is holding all the economical responsibility for the entire country. The south feels like it was never given a chance to show it's true potential. There are many more cultural reasons for the divide between the north and the south. But the point of mentioning it here is that the economy could cause that rift to blow up even more.
No one can predict the future. But 2009 is sure to be at times scary, unpredictable, and anything but boring for Italy - and the whole world. Happy new year!
Di Meglio is the guide to Newlyweds for About.com.
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