‘It’s a crock’: Italians outraged at 25-cent fuel discount

Italy cut fuel duties - and therefore the price at the pump - on Wednesday in response to soaring costs. But drivers and petrol station operators are far from impressed with the move.

'It's a crock': Italians outraged at 25-cent fuel discount
A picture taken in Rome earlier this month shows a board displaying the fuel price at a gas station, as refueling has become more expansive as a result of the war in Ukraine. (Photo by ALBERTO Pizzoli / AFP)

Italy has cut fuel duty in a move aimed at bringing the cost back down below two euros a litre, after prices soared to record highs in March due to the war in Ukraine.

But motorists and gas station operators were not satisfied with the cut, which amounts to a 25-cent discount for one month only.

This is a reduction in excise duty (a tax on the production and consumption of goods) on petrol and diesel. After adding VAT at 22 percent, the total discount to the consumer is 30.5 cents per litre.

The reduction came as part of a package of measures approved by the government on Friday, worth 4.4 billion euros, which Prime Minister Mario Draghi said would be “financed not by the public purse but by companies in the energy sector”.

READ ALSO: ‘The impact is zero’: Energy giants not worried by Italy’s tax on profits

But the government’s response was not welcomed at the pumps on Wednesday, with may left unimpressed by both the size of the discount and the length of the validity.

“I feel a bit fooled. In 30 days it will be over and everything will be as it was before, so what has changed?” Italian citizen Marco Morbidelli from Pesaro told newspaper Il Resto del Carlino.

“It’s a crock,” he said.

Petrol station operatives are also dissatisfied with the plan, arguing that it doesn’t help them run their business.

Alessandro Bailetti, a manager of a petrol station, said, “The state has lowered the cost of excise duties, but we have paid for our fuel by paying them too. Who will give us back these 30 cents that they have taken away? They say there will be a contribution – we hope so, even if we still don’t know when and how.”

Even with the cut to fuel cost, some Italians say that prices at the pump are still very high.

Motorist Daniele Luzi told the paper, “The state should not allow these increases and, above all, should examine its conscience about everything it makes us pay, because it is inappropriate.”

READ ALSO: How to save money on your fuel in Italy

The measures come after Italian industry and consumer groups urged the government to slash VAT and excise duty to keep the country moving after businesses, including Italy’s hauliers, said they couldn’t afford to operate.

Last week, Italian consumer watchdog Codacons revealed that the price of petrol had risen by 39 percent in a year in Italy, and diesel prices have risen by 51 percent.

Codacons said taxation was at 55.3 percent on every litre of petrol and 51.8 percent on diesel.

According to industry group Confindustria, the surge in fuel prices means the Italian state is “taking higher tax revenues thanks to the VAT paid on fuel prices.”

In the last week alone, the extra revenue gained [from VAT] is up by approximately 45 million euros compared to in the second week of February, the group said.

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Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

As the European energy crisis continues, some cities in Italy have chosen to save on electricity by downsizing regular Christmas displays, thus making this year’s festivities a little less flashy.

Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

With less than a month to go until the Christmas holidays, many might be rejoicing at the prospect of finally seeing their cities lit up by dazzling Christmas displays.

But, as the European energy crisis shows no sign of abating and many cities across the boot keep struggling to square their accounts in the face of soaring bills, some residents may be disappointed to know that this year’s festive decorations might differ from the norm.

Milan, Italy’s economic capital, was one of the very first Italian cities to announce it would significantly reduce Christmas displays to save on energy.

READ ALSO: Lights off and home working: Milan’s new energy-saving plan for winter 

After reports emerged in early October that the city would end up spending a whopping €130 million on energy bills alone in 2022, Milan’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, was quick to warn residents that Christmas decorations would be “restrained” and operate “for shorter periods of time”.

And, it wasn’t long before Sala made good on his promises. 

Earlier this month, the city’s authorities agreed on putting up decorations and light displays on December 7th (that is over two weeks after the usual date) and taking them down on January 6th instead of late January. 

Christmas lights in the streets of central Milan

Christmas lights in Milan will be switched on on December 7th, that is over two weeks after the usual switch-on date. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Also, while in previous years Milan’s city centre was illuminated overnight, this year’s Christmas lights will be switched on at 4pm and switched off at midnight. 

But, while Milan residents might be slightly dissatisfied with the new arrangements, they sure have little to complain about when compared to Rome residents. 

It’ll be a dark Christmas (literally and, perhaps, even figuratively) for most areas of the Eternal City and not merely because of the current energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: Energy crisis: The Italians reviving ‘nonna’s’ traditions to keep costs down

The city’s tender for this year’s Christmas lights contract received no bids before its deadline on October 27th, which means that, in many neighbourhoods, festive decorations will be largely left to the goodwill and financial means of the residents.

So while the popular Piazza di Spagna, Porta Pia and Via Alessandria will light up over the holiday season thanks to private funding, the San Giovanni and Tuscolano neighbourhoods and Via Cola di Rienzo are currently expected to remain au naturel.

Christmas light in a street in Rome

Many areas of the capital, Rome, will be without lights this year due to lack of funding. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Things will generally be better in Venice and Florence, where local authorities have recently chosen to maintain their usual arrangements, the only exception being the replacement of regular lights with energy-efficient, LED ones. 

So, while the lighting might be a little softer and displays might not be as remarkable as in previous years, both cities should be able to deal with late-December energy bills more comfortably than they would have had to do otherwise.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Italy has avoided a huge hike in gas prices – for now 

Having said that, not all Italian cities have decided to resize their Christmas offerings on the back of eye-watering electricity prices. 

Naples, which has long been known for the extravagance of its Christmas and New Year celebrations, has seemingly chosen to turn a blind eye to the energy crisis and will allocate as much as €1.5 million (that’s €150,000 to each one of the ten local municipalities) to this year’s displays.

Unsurprisingly, the comune’s decision has been drawing widespread criticism, with many local political figures pointing out that part, if not most, of the above-mentioned amount should have been spent elsewhere, perhaps in the form of a one-off ‘Christmas bonus’ for struggling households and businesses.

The available money should have been used to “turn off the crisis and light up people’s hearts”, city councillors Antonio Culiers and Francesco Flores said in a joint statement earlier this month.