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Books 4 February Feb 2020 1524 4 February 2020

“Children of debt”: here is how public debt weighs down on new generations

There is a generation, as Francesco Vecchi, a journalist from the Italian TV channel Canale 5 explains in his book “I figli del debito. Come i nostri padri ci hanno rubato il futuro (Children of debt. How our forebears stole our future) Piemme, that is kept hostage by the consequences of the big black hole in the State budget

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It’s one of Italy’s biggest problems. It holds up development, prevents large-scale political projects. Public debt , now at 132% of the GDP, hangs over all citizens - and here lies the paradox - it does not do so equally: there is a generation, as the Canale 5 journalist Francesco Vecchi in his book I figli del debito.. Come i nostri padri ci hanno rubato il futuro (Piemme), explains, is held hostage.

The weight of the economy and, worse still, the weight of political and social consequences falls onto this generation, as Francesco Vecchi explained during Linkiesta Festival, which was held November 8-9 at the Teatro Franco Parenti in Milan.

Vecchi, who are these children of debt?
It’s the latest generations, the newcomers in the job market. The ones who, without expecting it, have inherited an enormous public debt that conditions their existence. Basically, it’s the post-1992 kids.

What happened in 1992?
Many things. Everyone remembers the Mani Pulite corruption trials, the assassinations of judges Falcone and then Borsellino, the mafia massacres. But that year, Italy signed the Maastricht treaty and this was the real watershed. By adopting European parameters, our Country changed faces: from a generous mother, who with debt tricks managed to mask the slowing down of the economy and guarantee high salaries and career advancement to its citizen, it turned into an evil step-mother. Before it would give, no, it would give away. Now it takes and cuts. This situation, that has been going on for 27 years, the length of a generation, deeply modified the State’s budget, which from 1992 up to now has a primary balance (which means a part of the money accrued in taxes is used exclusively to repay the interest on the debt). And this has affected the character of Italians, and their faith in their State.

There are no investments, no modernizing pushes and new jobs. The Country can’t afford this type of expenses: it must use the money it collects to repay the debt.

Francesco Vecchi

And what has this meant for young people?
Public debt has made their situation worse: there are no investments, no modernizing pushes and new jobs. The Country can’t afford this type of expenses: it must use the money it collects to repay the debt. But careful: not to reduce it, but to keep it under control.

Taking action against wastage, from a political point of view, is not easy. This is why all the successive reforms from 1992 to this day have been about those who had not already acquired rights. They made laws, but only for the “next ones”. It’s natural: I can understand the reasons of those who try defend what they have. But this has meant worn out, precarious and very weak working conditions for an entire generation.

But young people have studied more. And parents have helped them do so.
It’s true. And it’s also true that “we let you study” is one of the mantras that parents and family members repeat to this generation. But because of the debt, the investment in education has dwindled throughout the years. They needed to make cuts, and instead of cutting pensions, they cut education. This is how the premises of an unequal division, between a majority who has a university education that holds no value, have been created. And a minority that, on the other hand, has attended the best schools in the country. But who use this information to move.

A very high number.
Yes, it’s as if we had lost a city like Milan. But younger, more active, educated and cosmopolitan than the real Milan. And this is only looking at the Aire (Italian register of nationals living abroad) figures.

What is your solution then?
Various solutions. First of all we need a new generational agreement. In the years where the country was drugged by the balance policies, some had all the possible benefits. Others didn’t. I’d say we need to start from here: balance the imbalances, recover the energies of a generation that runs the risk of being lost.

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