Northern vs. southern Italy has been a subject of discussion for a long time! “There is no doubt that Italy’s economic and social disunity remains the most obvious and least addressed structural limitation.” A study performed by Eurispes reached that conclusion. “The greatest incongruity of our country is that 41 percent of its territory lives in such dissimilar social, economic, and civil conditions that it seems a different nation.”
In 1951, per capita GDP in the South was 52.9 compared to that of the North and Center. That means the South had half the nation’s GDP. In 1973 it reached 60.5 (almost eight points higher than in 1951). However, gone are those days that portrayed these outstanding numbers.
“The South is not a minority partner. The nagging question is this: can a nation call itself such if one-third of it is in a radically different condition from the other two-thirds? No, it cannot be for moral, civic, or minimum fairness reasons. But mainly for economic reasons. In the same nation and an interdependent economy, the backwardness of one part results in a reduction of national wealth. And it reduces the development horizon.”
“This is the greatest inconsistency in our country. Without giving the matter too much thought, we can easily affirm the following. If that backward territory recovered the path of growth and came close to the performance of the other two parts, Italy would again become a leading nation in the world economy.”
“Italy’s cohesion should be our greatest economic reform, bridging the gap in our most forward-looking strategy.”
A good example is to look at what happened in Germany after reunification. “Germany has invested almost five times more on its East in 30 years than was spent in about 60 years in the South of Italy, that is, between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion euros.”
For the South of Italy, the figures are these: in 58 years, that is, from the start of the Cassa del Mezzogiorno in 1950 to 2008, 342.5 billion euros entered the region as an investment. In eastern German, an average of 70 billion euros a year can be contrasted with the Mezzogiorno 6 billion a year investment. Thus, the territorial gap in Italy has lasted a full 160 years.
“However, something seems to make possible what seemed unthinkable until a while ago,” Eurispes comments. “Conspicuous public resources will come from Europe, and Draghi could repeat a new economic miracle. The Cassa per il Mezzogiorno model may not be replicated. But the nation needs to include the South in its strategy.”
Growing the South is a bargain for the Italian economy!
In 2020, the report recalls that Italy “celebrated” 50 years since the birth of the Regions. One of the most resounding consequences of Italian-style regionalism is the 20 different health care systems around Italy. Today, the same treatment and prevention translate into 20 different responses.
“Therefore, a problem arises. And it can not continue to be ignored. Is the value of common Italian citizenship compatible with facilities, care, and capabilities that change drastically depending on the territory in which one lives and resides?”
Have the regions helped us overcome the economic differences with the North Center before their birth? “The answer is: none of the eight southern regions in the past 50 years has surpassed a North-Center region in income and productive activity.”
In recent decades, again stating Eurispes, the economic gap has not been alone. A noticeable difference in services also has become part of the recipe.
People in the South die earlier!
So, it must not surprise us that the difference in economies translates into social implications. “Today, health statistics tell us that those who live in the South die on average two years earlier than those who reside in the North. Undoubtedly, it is first and foremost the different economic conditions between the two parts of Italy that affect the greater or lesser possibility of extending the years of life.”
And if in Naples and Caserta, life expectancy stops at 80.6 years; in Rimini and Florence, it reaches 84 years. The average in all regions of the South is 79.8 years for men and 84.1 for women. However, in the autonomous province of Trento, it is 81.6 for males and 86.3 for females.
“Abandoning the supra-regional dimension in the South,” the report says, “was a bad choice.”
Permanent coordination among the eight regions did not take place from the beginning. The underestimation of social infrastructure and services is a recurring theme. And after all these years, the bet for fanciful and wishful regional development programs has proven to be a mistake.
“Italy is not a federal state like Switzerland or Germany, like the United States of America or Canada. However, throughout the management of the pandemic, it has behaved as if it were. Thus, entrusting the Regions with functions never assigned in the past. In Italy, only “enhanced” regionalism is in effect, with some delegated powers that do not, however, configure “autonomous states.” In short, region-states are an invention of their presidents, not an interpretation of our Constitution.”
“Therefore, today, it is in the central state-region relationship where the greatest crisis happens in the nation’s institutional articulation. In 2001 there was a turning point: a hasty and confused reform of Title V of the Constitution. Thus, Italy is still paying the consequences today. The handling of the pandemic is the most dramatic testimony to this. In short, the solution to the southern question needs a different approach. In other words, entrustment to the regions is not the solution.”
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