Let’s get this straight. I’m not a qualified economist. In fact I barely scraped an O level in maths.
My bank manager would tell you I sometimes fail to balance my spending and my income. But I know this much: Italy has a population at the last count of about 60million souls. We learned this week that its national debt stands at nearly €2 trillion Euros. That’s right €2,000,000,000,000. A lot of noughts I’m sure you will agree.
It’s costing Italy €70,000,000,000 Euros a year in interest payments alone.
That makes my Barclaycard bill look altogether reasonable.
To put that in perspective, every man, woman and child – including nonna – owes someone – it’s not quite clear who – thousands of Euros which for some reason are worth about the same as a pound despite years of ‘prudence’ under Gordon Brown and his pet chancellor Alistair Darling. But that’s another story.
The point is that Italy is flat broke, as too is Greece, Ireland and apparently Spain. France’s economy is looking pretty peaky too.
Looking around me, I fear we are no different. We now live in a down-at-heel country where public spending cuts are mutely accepted by a world-weary public faced by job insecurity, wage freezes, tax rises and ever increasing prices.
It is clear to me that we have been living in a society where wealth was a mirage.
We, they, the whole western world has been sleepwalking into the abyss.
But is it any surprise? In the UK, we have allowed all but the dying embers of our industrial past to slip through our fingers to be replaced by endless supermarkets and shopping malls.
As I said, I don’t profess to have the answers, but something is going to have to change, for the sake of us all.
At present we don’t appear to be prepared to have a real debate on where we are going and what the future looks like. Yet our politicians appear to believe simply borrowing more money and hoping it’s all going to come right in the end is the way forward. I, for one, disagree.
Counterpoint by Scott Freeman