Commentary. There are equitable reforms that the country is waiting for, and it is up to us to push for them, starting with the minimum wage.

After a year of Meloni, Italy is poorer: We need an alternative

It’s no longer just our opinion, but a proven fact: Italy run by the right is poorer and with more injustice. The first real signs of trouble are emerging, as a result of a government team that is really not up to the challenge. Meloni and her ministers are betraying all the promises they made to voters, one after the other. The disaster in the management of the immigration humanitarian crisis is only the latest failure. Her policies are painting an ever-clearer picture of the classist right that refuses to take into account in its decisions the words of Article 3 of the Constitution, the goal of “removing the obstacles” that prevent the “full development of the human person,” to tragic results.

A clear sign of this is their total disregard for the protests of the university students, who these days are complaining about the abnormally high costs of textbooks and housing so that they can continue their studies. Inequalities are growing, and this is an increasing danger to democracy itself. Against this bleak backdrop, Elly Schlein’s PD is doing well to focus at this stage on building a clear identity, anchored first and foremost in the need to bring justice, mobilize the country and have a unified culture in relation to other political forces and social actors.

We are facing a very difficult autumn. The international economy is slowing down, and all indicators point to a slowdown in the Italian economy as well. So much for the “locomotive of Europe,” as Meloni boasted a while back. In the second quarter of 2023, Italian GDP fell by 0.4 percent, a decrease which was worse than expected. In the “European Economic Forecast Summer 2023,” released on September 11, 2023 by the European Commission, Italy’s GDP growth estimates were revised downward by 0.3 points for both 2023 and 2024. The latest data on industrial production, business and consumer confidence are all negative. By now, the errors and delays in the implementation of the NRP, and the lack of vision on important issues related to innovation and sustainability, have become obvious. Employment is also slowing, and we are still the European country with the lowest rate of female employment.

Inflation continues to remain high. Over the past two years, consumer prices have increased by 14.3 percent. In particular, food prices have increased by 21.7 percent. Prices for housing, water, electricity and fuel costs have risen by 35.9 percent. It is a death by a thousand cuts for Italian families, a real social emergency. Many families are also being forced to cut back on food consumption in order to manage the high cost of living. ISTAT tells us that Italians are buying 4.7 percent less food than a year ago.

In such a situation, it was a big mistake to cut the resources aimed at fighting poverty, and it seems increasingly urgent to raise wages and pass a minimum wage. There is no hint that the situation is likely to improve in the coming months; quite the contrary. From the reports circulating, the budget law for 2024 is expected to be inadequate, coming after months of underestimating the economic slowdown and the consequences of inflation. There are no resources left: with this government, public debt has reached a record of more than €2.8 trillion, with an increase of more than €100 billion between September 2022 and June 2023. This is a very heavy burden, made even worse by rising interest rates. We will be using more and more resources just to pay back the interest on the national debt.

But an important reason why the government has so few resources is because their mistakes on the NRP and failure to combat tax evasion are weighing heavily. Investment in public services is at risk: with the 2023 budget law, there was already a sharp cut in real spending on schools and health care. Faced with such a situation, the government has nonetheless spent the summer dealing with ministerial gaffes, creeping controversy and the perennial search for scapegoats to blame. Now, Mario Draghi’s return to a prominent role in Brussels marks a turning point, because he will relaunch the development of the European integration process. But the challenge will be here, in Italy. A vast and perhaps unexpected playing field is opening up for the construction of an alternative. There are equitable reforms that the country is waiting for, and it is up to us to push for them, starting with the minimum wage. The right has won by exploiting the problems that generate fears, but now it’s showing it cannot solve those problems. It is up to us to begin a new phase, in which, once again, people will be able to experience a new politics, closer to their own human condition.

There are no shortcuts and the road will not be a short one, but it is a journey that must be undertaken in the squares, in the neighborhoods, among the richness of the inland areas, in the hearts of the communities, looking people in the eye in order to enter into dialogue, listen and build a different life project together. The right cultivates fears by turning them into anger, and it is up to us to understand those fears and answer them with hope instead.

P.S. It’s almost exactly the same people who have been criticizing the PD for years for being too distant from the downtrodden and too much of a party of the affluent city centers who are now criticizing it because it is supposedly “too leftist.” It’s frankly unbearable nonsense. Being close to the human condition and loneliness of people and offering hope instead of anger is simply the right thing to do, and I continue to believe that this is what history has always asked of us.

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