Italy enjoys one of the largest economies in the Euro-11, ranking third behind France and Germany. Italy was unified in 1861 following nearly 1400 years of domination by city-states, foreign powers, and the Papal See. During these years, different cultures developed in the north and south, leading to great economic disparities as the north, with its Venetian, Milanese and Florentine heritages, developed a strong industrial economy. By comparison, the south, formerly dominated by Naples and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, remains rural and undeveloped.
GDP and GDP Per Capita,
Italy’s GDP for 2001 was 1,217 billion Euros, or 1,095 billion dollars at the average exchange rate for 2001. (Economist Intelligence Unit, January 7, 2003.) Estimated GDP for 2002 was $1.438 trillion after adjustments for Purchasing Power Parity, with a 2002 per capita GDP of 25,000 after a similar adjustment. (The World Factbook, 2002) GDP per capita was 18,800 in 2001, while GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power parity stood at 26,150. This was up from 25,230 in 2000 and 24,025 in 1999. Overall GDP grew an average of 2% between 1997 and 2001. (Economist Intelligence Unit, January 7, 2003.) Purchasing power adjustments used by the Economist and the CIA’s World Factbook differ slightly.
Income distribution in Italy is surprisingly egalitarian; in economic terms, the country has a favorable Lorenz Curve and a low Gini Coefficient. Although income distribution is not as egalitarian as that in Scandinavian countries, it favors the poor and middle class more than in the United Kingdom and United States. Wage and income distribution favors the industrial north to the agrarian south of Italy, which has roughly 20% unemployment. In 2000, the top 10% of the population earned 27% of the GDP, whereas the bottom 10% earned 2% of GDP. (The World Factbook, 2002). A report published by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in Fall of 2002 showed that inflation had re-emerged and that the disparity between productivity growth and wage growth have caused many to question whether or not a process of income redistribution would emerge.
Currency Value and Trend
Italy’s currency, the Euro, is new to the nation as of January, 2002 when it replaced the Italian Lira. Currently (www.economist.com, April 14, 2003) it is worth 1.07 dollars. When the Euro was first introduced, it was worth less than one U.S. dollar. In 2001 before the currency went into circulation and was merely a metric, it was worth an average of 90 U.S. cents. (www.economist.com, April 14, 2003) However, the smooth transition of Western Europe’s largest currencies to the Euro caused it to strengthen, along with trepidation among international investors over U.S. markets and the possibility of future terrorist attacks on United States soil.
Government Spending vs. Revenue
According to the Economist, “The 2003 draft budget included personal income tax cuts for low income groups, but the top rate is to remain unchanged at 44%. The corporation tax rate is to be cut from 36% to 34%.” (Economist, 7 January 2003) Government expenses in 2001 totaled 504 billion in 2002 while expenditures totaled 517 billion. (The World Factbook, 2002)
Government Debt and Trend
Public debt represented 110.47% of GDP in 2001, or 1,345 billion Euros. This represented a significant decrease year-over-year, from 111.44% in 2000 and 115.88% in 1999. (Economist, September 23, 2002)
Balance of Payments and Trend.
The value of exports of goods in 2001 amounted to U.S.$242.4bn and imports U.S.$226.6bn, making the foreign trade surplus U.S.$15.9bn. In the same year, the current-account balance recorded a small deficit of U.S.$200m. This was markedly reduced from a balance of U.S.$5.8bn in 2000. (Economist, January 7, 2003)
The Economist Intelligence Unit. Italy: Economic Data. September 23, 2002.
The Economist Intelligence Unit. Italy: Factsheet. January 7, 2003.
The World Factbook 2002:Italy CIA 2002, www.cia.gov
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. “Income distribution developments since the 1993 incomes policy agreement.” 2002.
The Economist. Currency Exchange Rates: April 14, 2003. www.economist.com
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