What is the future of the Italian economy
You have waited a long time. Since last July, when Europe launched the groundbreaking "Next Generation EU" rescue program. They made demands. You have made specific proposals to your government. You have collected 100,000 signatures for the petition "One percent is not enough". You kept waiting. No Answer. Nothing. They are young Italians and they do not want to be fobbed off with crumbs when distributing the 209 billion euros from the European reconstruction fund. Because they say: "We are the generation that has to pay for the costs of this crisis and have to repay the debt." Your patience is at the end.
Three weeks ago, Carmelo Traina, 26, got on the train to Rome in Milan. The start-up entrepreneur is also the head of the Visionary youth lobby, which runs in Italy against the closed society of the adult vigilantes and established people. It was already dark when he and a few fellow soldiers pulled up to the government office in the capital. Inside the Palazzo Chigi efforts were made to round up defectors from the opposition to strengthen the crumbling coalition. Outside, the young people projected a warning on the facade. "If you don't invest in your youth, you have no future," read large illuminated letters on the palazzo in which Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was still struggling to maintain power.
The people from Visionary protested against a new government plan to use the money from the EU construction fund. In the biggest Italian investment program of all time, the youth is once again passed over. Those affected calculate that only 2.8 billion euros are to be used directly to improve the chances of a forgotten generation. A little more than one percent of the 209 billion euros with which the European partners are helping Italy in an unprecedented effort. "We are asking for 20 billion euros for training, career orientation and work," says Traina. They also demand: concrete projects, clear targets and controllable procedures. All that is missing from the plan so far. A shortcoming that also alarms Brussels. EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni publicly criticized the vagueness of the Roman plans.
In the end, is the generous Corona aid from Europe just another burden that Italy places on a youth who has been betrayed? The government has raised € 165 billion in additional debt since the pandemic began to ease the crisis. Now the country is to receive 127 billion euros in loans from the EU's development program, which must be repaid. The remaining 39 percent are grants. In Brussels, the "Next Generation EU" is intended as an investment in the future from which the new generations should benefit. In Rome the boys have so far been seen in the role of paymasters.
Carmelo Traina, curly black head, round nickel glasses and a distinctive Sicilian accent has long been back at his desk in Milan in Talent Garden, a major provider of co-working space. For a few days now, the engineer has been looking at Rome with a completely new expectation. After the failure of Conte, Mario Draghi was commissioned to form a government last Tuesday. Traina was delighted. "Draghi raises high hopes for us," says the Visionary boss. He campaigned for the youth with "extraordinary emphasis". Traina recalls a great speech given by the former head of the European Central Bank last August. The 73-year-old said in Rimini: "Robbing a young person of their future is one of the worst forms of inequality."
Draghi's words caused a sensation in Italy. He broke his silence nine months after the end of his term as head of the ECB. "For years some form of collective selfishness has led governments to focus their efforts on goals that bring certain and immediate political advantage," he said. That is no longer acceptable. The euro savior called on the government to put youth at the center of their strategy. The Corona emergency aid was important, but young people needed more. "We have to support them by investing in their education," he said.
The topic of youth has run like a red thread through Draghi's speeches since his first address as the head of the Roman central bank in 2006. He is guided not only by economic reason, but also by personal experience. At 15 he lost his parents. Attending the Roman Jesuit school Collegio Massimo, La Sapienza University and MIT in Boston were the springboard to a steep career for him. Now the Rimini Manifesto appears to inspire his government program.
The pandemic is a stress test that relentlessly exposes the weaknesses of societies everywhere. It hits young people hardest in Italy. The corona crisis aggravated the misery of a generation that is worthless to the country. "For a year now I've been waking up in the morning demoralized and wondering whether there will be a place for me in this society at some point," Gianluca Testarella, 25, posted on a blog. The boys were the first to lose their precarious jobs. They had to cancel their internships. Schools and universities across the country were closed on March 5, 2020. In mid-September, face-to-face classes started again for the younger ones. In February, after eleven months, the high school students returned from homeschooling to the classroom - alternately. The problem, the government said, is not the school, but the risk of infection in the means of transport. Your solution: study at home on the screen.
It was an illusion that this could succeed with the approximately one million children who live in poverty in Italy. For many, the lesson took place on the 5-inch display of their cell phone at best. "I do not know what will become of our school after the pandemic. I think we will not see half of our students again," says Eugenia Carfora, headmistress in a problem area in Caivano near Naples. The proportion of 15 to 24 year olds who are neither working nor in training rose to 27.8 percent - a European record. Five million young people are unemployed.
A week ago, Visionary submitted proposals for targeted investments to improve job opportunities to the Finance Committee of the Roman Parliament. For four years, the organization has been studying how young Italians can escape their fate as a lost generation. The name Visionary says it all: "You only think of today or at most tomorrow morning," says Traina. What Italy lacks is a vision.
"Which country are we leaving our children behind?" Asked Mario Draghi in his farewell speech in Rome in 2011, before taking responsibility for the euro in Frankfurt. Now, ten years later, the answer is in his hand.
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