July 22, 2012

Temple of Heracles, Sicily

Temple of Heracles, Sicily

The Italians are the most taxed people on Earth, screamed the newspapers”€™ front pages here on Friday. They pay in taxes the equivalent of 55% of Italy’s GDP. In contrast, Americans”€™ taxes comprise 27% of the USA’s GDP.

Most of this huge tax yield comes from the north because in the south there is much less work and much more tax evasion. Much of this tax money ends up in the south, especially in Sicily.

The money keeps the Sicilians sweet. Most of it goes into the coffers of the same regional government which now teeters toward bankruptcy.

Sicily’s President Lombardo has not yet resigned and dismisses the idea that Sicily is bankrupt as a slanderous lie and racist insult. He says it is a simple “€œliquidity problem.”€

These past few days since the Sicilian bankruptcy story broke, the Italian press has been chockablock with statistics on how bad things have gotten in Sicily.

Ten million Italians, for example, live in the region of Lombardy in the north whose capital is Milan, compared to just five million Italians in Sicily. Yet the papers say that Lombardy’s regional government has only 4,900 staff, compared to the Sicilian regional government, which has 28,796 staff”€”six times as many. Palermo City Council has 25,000 staff compared to Milan’s 15,000, despite the fact that Milan has twice as many citizens.

The newspapers listed the most glaring examples of Sicilian profligacy. In April, the regional government hired an extra 30 camminatori (walkers) to carry bits of paper from one office to another. In the past two years, it has taken on an extra 3,360 ambulance drivers although it has only 256 ambulances. In 2006, it set up an office to sell off buildings it no longer used or needed, but it has yet to sell off a single building. Sicily has 30,000 forestry police compared to 3,000 in Lombardy, which has loads of forests as well as the Alps.

As the Milan daily, Il Foglio, put it in an editorial on Friday:

Sicilian domestic product is essentially a bureaucratic product…a colossus of unproductive expenditure of such dimensions that is becoming intolerable.

As the soothsayers are warning, it looks like August is going to be hotter than ever this year.



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