Europe

Italian debt crisis: Your stories

As the Italian government moves forward with its plans for an austerity budget, the International Monetary Fund has asked the country to ensure spending cuts are implemented in a "decisive" way.

There are concerns that Italy could be the next country to to be affected by the debt crisis spreading through the eurozone.

Here, BBC News website readers explain how their daily lives have been affected by Italy's money worries.

Don Pilarz, Genoa

Image caption Don Pilarz says the austerity budget is aimed at the wrong target

I have been living in Italy since 1986. My family have always enjoyed the simple, rich pleasures a wonderful country like Italy provides: superb local food, good quality clothing, efficient and friendly public services (medical, sport, transport), so we have succeeded in living fairly economically.

But austerity is the last thing Italy or the world needs. The recent and current spending cuts are all aimed at the wrong targets.

People are finding it harder to use public transport, services are poorer, jobs are hard to find and the environment is not receiving the tender loving care it needs to survive.

Italy is plagued by massive, profligate wealth in a substantial portion of its population with no end but its own furtherance.

Either through tax evaporation due to global money circulation or wilful tax evasion by many of Italy's richest individuals and companies, the government knowingly deprives itself of the resources needed to sustain productivity and growth in a modern society.

I have never been in debt and have always managed to save a little extra. I feel that what counts in life is how you do things: Not so much the monetary value of things, but how you use them, combine them and fit them into your life.

So I don't feel the need to cut back on our modest expenditures because, effectively we only spend what we need to.

I would feel poorer, though, if the extensive public services historically available here are cut back, forcing a reduction in the quality of my life.

Those services - from hospitals through to schools and universities, museums, festivals, public transport, police, local agricultural sustenance through to sound policy, etc are what permit my family to live healthy, productive and creative lives.

Ciro Alessandro Sacco, Brescia, Italy

I fully agree with the IMF's request - one which has been made over the decades by many people in Italy.

We're not asking for savage cuts, but cuts in wasteful spending in areas such as nepotism, corruption, phoney pension claims, bent public tenders and so on.

Image caption Ciro Alessandro Sacco wants less wasteful spending

I am convinced that Italy has a big problem.

I'm a retailer - I own a specialist games shop and so I have to rely on the trade of buying and selling.

But when the economy suffers, the Italian people, like myself, also suffer.

The Italian government needs reformation - it is not like the other European governments and something has to be done.

Too much money is spent on white elephant projects like the bridge which is spanning the Strait of Messina.

I personally have had to make lots of savings - I even relocated my shop to a less costlier location.

I am afraid for Italy's future. I know of so many people who are unemployed or have had to work less hours and for less money because they have no other option.

This is a dangerous situation for Italy to be in - it is causing much unhappiness and I don't know what will happen next.

I do know that if Italy is in trouble, then Europe is in trouble.

Nicholas James Harvey, Aosta

Until the political classes pay their share and take some responsibility for the mess the finances are in, ordinary Italians won't take kindly to austerity measures.

Image caption The cost of living in Italy has risen while wages have not.

For example, how can politicians justify a recent 3,000 euros a month pay rise to their already bloated pay packets when ordinary workers, nurses, teachers, factory workers etc... have to bear the brunt of the nations' tax bill on not much more than 1,000 euros a month.

I work in publishing and at the moment the company I work for is doing reasonably well and has not been affected.

But personally, I have had to make some changes to my lifestyle.

Petrol prices here are just extortionate. I try to avoid driving where I can now.

I'm also looking at moving savings from Italy to countries like the UK or Switzerland.

I think this situation has been a long-time coming; ever since Italy introduced the euro to the country.

Gradually the cost of living has risen but people's wages have remained the same.

A lot of ordinary people remain ignorant about the situation because there is no "real opposition" to say no to certain laws and proceedings since they benefit from them too.

You see the same family names in all aspects of government - from local level to the very top, and there are very few stories that make the news that push the status quo.

There needs to be more ordinary people involved in politics.

However, I think until the football games are taken off the air and food no longer reaches the supermarkets, things will not reach a head here in Italy.

Alessandro Paracciani, Rome

The IMF is rightly fulfilling its duty, though finance minister Giulio Tremonti's cuts in the past years have literally saved us from sharing Greece's fate.

By no means can Italy rest on its laurels - the austerity measured will have to be sustained.

However, the heart of the disproportionate public debt lies in the country's unhealthy tax structure, which is heavily decentralised.

Small towns and municipalities often spend a lot more than what they earn - money is wasted in in unimaginable quantities.

Sicily, which is among the country's poorest regions, employs 30,000 in the public sector. By contrast, Lombardy (around the same size and the wealthiest) employs 3,000.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's "Federalismo Fiscale" reform is key to solving this problem.

Why the foreign press fails to appreciate these facts, rather concentrating on sexual speculation, is beyond my understanding.

Wait - could it be because of commercial success??

In any case, a lot of mud has been thrown over my country and partly by itself.

Italy is far from perfect, but it is not a banana republic as it is seen today.

Roberto Davide, Rome

Image caption Roberto Davide says Italians will react differently to their Greek neighbours

The IMF, as well as the European community, needs to get serious with Italy and its political-economic behaviour in and out of the Italian parliament before it brings the rest of Europe down.

That is, they need to put their foot down and demand measures that ensure Italy does its part without having other Europeans flip the bill for our insistent refusal to change our indifference and irresponsibility to manage our fiscal obligations and situation like our northern EU members.

I am now, however, making changes to my personal spending habits.

I have reduced the amount of meals out at osterias and trattorias, and am cooking more often at home.

I am travelling less and am careful to not make spontaneous trips that may see train or plane fare a bit more expensive due to "last minute" purchases. I have also modified my drinking consumption when out with friends so all I have is just a drink or two.

But the Italian reality is much different to that of Greece or say, Spain, where average citizens gather and unite in commonality.

Many protests here are specific to political alliances and most often require permits and planning in advance.

It would be more honest to say Italians are quite passive about their role in the country due to the widespread notion that protesting will change nothing.

Italy has politicians that are left-overs from decades past. It's like a game of musical chairs... with 100 chairs and 100 politicians. They just change seats.

More comments

I think the government is working well and will manage to respect the promise of cutting the deficit by 2014. I think also the government must cut taxes early, to help the economic growth of my country. Marco Leonardi, Milan

Following retirement, I bought a property in the Abruzzo region last year. I spend up to a third of my time here. Italy is an expensive country for eating out and buying clothes. We try to support the local economy by buying in the village but, as in the UK, people have discovered the local supermarket and use that to stock up on some essentials. With a poor exchange rate, we have to be careful. Jim Grant, Celenza sul Trigno, Abruzzo

On average, Italian families are less indebted and have a greater savings cushion than certainly the Anglo-Saxon countries, but that won't last long. What's really fascinating - and what I've never seen discussed on the media - is the overturning of democracy that is being carried out by the rating agencies - none of whom are actually in Europe! Their "downgrades" are like a serial killer murder thriller - who's next? Will all the countries in Europe end up as "junk"? They might want to remember that if the host dies, so does the parasite. Silvana Chiocconi, La Spezia

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