ITALY - GEOGRAPHY AND STATISTICS (cont.)
It is not every Government even in a country of exceptional wealth like England that is able to keep the balance on the right side of the national account; in Italy it long seemed as if no Government could do so. To attain the pareggio, or in familiar phrase to make both ends meet, was the dream and the despair of minister after minister. Money was wanted for so many things ; taxes of any considerable value could be imposed on so few. The various parts of the national organization had to be put with all possible speed into a condition not altogether unworthy of the prestige and the promise of the kingdom. "What in other countries had been the growth of generations, Italy was called upon to produce at once by "forcing." To attain her nominal or political unity she had to submit to many sacrifices ; to make the unity something better than a musical word, she had to submit to many more. That she should have spent so much on her army, her fortifications, and her fleet, is matter of regret in spite of the secondary purposes which such things subserve ; that at the same time she has aimed high, and acted liberally in respect of more needful if less ostentatious departments, is worthy of admiration, and, in judging of what she has attained, it must never be forgotten what an inheritance of debt and disorganization passed over to her from the states which she supplanted.
The following table (XLII.) of debt, revenue, and expenditure (given in millions of lire = £40,000), shows that on the whole the financial condition of the country, considered in itself and apart from the causes to which it is due, is an improving if not a satisfactory one. It must be noted that in the columns of revenue and expenditure no account is taken of the movement of the capitals, of the expenses connected with the railway system, or of the debts and payments of one part of the administration to another.
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If the items excluded from the above comparison be taken into consideration, the revenue and expenditure will stand for the later years as follows (Table XLIII.):
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The most noticeable facts indicated by Table XLII. are(l)the rapid increase of the national debt, which at the declaration of the kingdom of Italy in 1861 amounted to only 3,131,053,610 lire, so that it more than doubled itself in seven years and more than trebled itself in twelve, and (2) the attainment during five consecutive years of a very considerable surplus. The following table (XLIV. gives the official report on the items of the national debt in 1879:
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The figures, it must be noted, represent the interest, not the capital. A large proportion of the Italian consols are held in small amounts, for the most part by French investors, and the greatest holder after France appears to be England. In the Bourse of Paris in 1879, for instance, 11,912,000 lire of the stock were presented for certification, in the Exchange of London 8,319,000 lire; and after these places comes Berlin with only 1,453,000 lire. The value of the 5 per cent, stock at Paris, which was as low as 39-40 in the course of 1866, has risen rapidly nearly every year, especially since 1875, and in the course of 1880 was as high as 87 '60. A similar advance was observable in the Italian exchanges ; from 43-52 in 1866 the value rose to 94-20 in 1880.
In the matter of taxation the Italian statesmen have mainly followed in the footsteps of the French; and the revenue is eked out by several imposts of the most questionable character. Mr Gallenga even goes so far as to say that '' there is hardly an unwise, inhuman, unpopular, or even immoral tax to which the Government has not been compelled to resort." It is a small matter that the aurum lústrale of ancient Rome should again figure in the Italian budget; but it is a serious thing when the salt monopoly, the lottery, a grist-tax, and an octroi are among the most important of its items. The grist-tax, which pressed heavily on the very means of life, and aggravated the already aggravated misery of the poorer classes, has happily been reduced in 1880 from 2 lire to 1.50 per hectolitre, and is destined to disappear altogether in 1884. Against the octroi, which, as shown in the paragraph dealing with the communal administration, tells severely on the prosperity of several important industries, an intelligent opposition is beginning to gather head ; and the law in this respect will probably be amended or abrogated before long. The following table (XLV.) gives the actual revenue of the Government for 1878 and 1879, the actual expenditure for 1878, and the estimated expenditure for 1879, all in lire:
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The relative importance of the various sources of revenue may be seen from the following figures in millions of lire ( = £40,000), show the totals for the ten years 1871-1880 (Table XLVI. ) [Footnote 465-2] :
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465-1 (Footnote 1 in Table XLIV) The chief miscellaneous debts arethe annuities due to the South Austrian and Upper Italian Railway Company, in terms of the convention of November 1875 (33,160,215 lire, date of extinction 1968), tobacco monopoly obligations (4,503,000 lire), advance in gold made by the national hank at 6.55 per cent. (2,992,610), and obligation issued in favour of the company for the sale of the state property (2,060,501).
465-2 See Marpurgo, Sulla finanza nazionale, Rome, 1874.
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Italy - Table of Contents