We already wrote this in 1995. Why not learn from the example set by Germany in recent years? Why, if our German friends have succeeded in making the former GDR’s unification process the cornerstone of all economic and social policy, can’t we do the same for Southern Italy? Is it unreasonable to believe that investing resources, ideas, and energies in the South will benefit the entire country in the long run?
This conviction was reaffirmed in the 2020 Italy Report.
Scholars such as Isaia Sales are now championing this idea.
Germany spent five times more in the poorer former East Germany in the first decades of reunification than the infamous Cassa per il Mezzogiorno in 50 years.
Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno absorbed only 0.5% of Italian GDP – or no more than 0.7% – while public investments in the North amounted to 3.5% of GDP. Nonetheless, a large portion of that same 0.5% ended up in the North, thanks to the phenomenon of “rigged contracts” entrusted to northern industries for the construction of extremely expensive works, many of which were never completed or were rendered inoperable; the famous “cathedrals in the desert.”
According to the International Monetary Fund, 80% of the companies that received funding during the last period of the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno were large Northern companies.
Bankitalia, on the other hand, calculates that a one-euro increase in GDP in the South produces a 40-cent rise in GDP in the Centre-North. However, the opposite is true: a one-euro rise in GDP in the Centre-North generates only a ten-cent increase in GDP for the entire country. Investing in the South’s growth rather than the Centre-North yields a fourfold return for the country as a whole. Unfortunately, our ruling classes appear to be oblivious to this.
As a result, if Italy could overcome its short-sighted illusions of proceeding in semi-separate pieces, returning to consider itself a country and thus developing the South, it would become the most competitive area in Europe, possibly even competing with the most competitive regions of the world.
Germany has conducted a similar operation, demonstrating that backwardness is not a natural state of a territory – let alone an anthropological fact – but rather a condition that can be overcome in a few decades through massive investments. It would also be possible in Italy if our country recognised that it is, indeed, a whole.
According to the Bank of Italy’s research, the South is Italy’s actual growth reserve: it represents the country’s potential growth. If the government discovers the worth of this enormous treasure hidden in the South, it will experience unprecedented growth.
*Gian Maria Fara, President of the Eurispes.