Italy small shop closures ‘a massacre’

Italy is losing 134 retail outlets a day because of the financial crisis, the latest figures from Confesercenti, the association for small and medium-sized businesses in the retail and tourism sectors, show.

Italy small shop closures 'a massacre'
The retail sector has been hard it by the financial crisis. Photo: Blackcat/Wikicommons

The association’s president, Marco Venturi, told a press conference: “It’s a massacre”.

Confesercenti said last week there will be no small shops left in in Italy within ten years if the current rate of decline continues.  

The decline could be stymied if Italy qualifies for German government loans as part of a plan by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to help support struggling economies in southern Europe.

If the scheme get the go-ahead, then a credit scheme already in the pipeline for small and medium-sized businesses in Spain would be extended to Italy and Portugal. Under plans for Spain, Germany’s KfW public investment bank will offer €800 million in loans to businesses through Spain’s ICO bank.

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Pope hits out at financial speculators

Pope Francis earned a rapturous reception on a visit to a struggling steel factory in northern Italy on Saturday as he denounced financial speculators and demanded dignity for working people.

Pope hits out at financial speculators
Pope Francis at the steel factory in Genoa. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

“Without work for all there will not be dignity for all,” the pontiff told several thousand uniformed and hard-hatted workers at the Ilva plant in the northwestern city of Genoa.

“The progressive transformation of the entrepreneur into a speculator is an economic illness,” he said. “The speculator is the same as a mercenary who has no company and sees workers only as a means to make profits.”

The assembled gathering responded with applause and cries of “Francesco, Francesco” as the Argentinian pope blasted the “faceless” nature of parts of today's economy.

Taking questions from several of those gathered, including a CEO and an unemployed woman, Francis praised the honour and dignity of “the good worker” and the good boss who would share out the fruits of their respective labours.

He contrasted that with “speculators” who chase maximum profits at the expense of workers left on the scrapheap, while adding that there were “few greater joys than those experienced by working.”

For Francis, who called high joblessness among youth as “mortgaging the future” of a generation, “without work one can survive – but to live you need work.”

At the same time, he criticised some sectors including the pornography and gambling industries.

Francis said he saw “democracy in crisis” in a working environment where many felt in thrall to a society which “sees only (the value of) consumption and does not understand the value of work and sweat.”

The heavily indebted Ilva group was brought under Italian state control two years ago, then nationalised it in an attempt to cut losses and prevent job losses.

Rome is now mulling selling Ilva to steel giant ArcelorMittal, owned by Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.

Pope Francis's own family originate from northern Italy, and the Genoa region was where many Italians departed from as they emigrated to North and South America during the early 20th century.