'They are the new poor': Covid-19 fuels rising poverty in Italy
The queue at a soup kitchen in the Trastevere district of Rome moves at a much slower pace than it did before Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, owing to physical distancing rules. But it is also much longer.
“We have gone from serving around 300 meals at a time to 500,” said Lucia Lucchini, who manages the kitchen run by the Catholic charity Sant’Egidio.
“There were some very difficult days at the beginning of the lockdown, with many homeless people coming here who were afraid as they didn’t understand what was happening – some were even fined for being on the street. Then we started to see people who hadn’t come before, those who had lost their income and who had no family to turn to.”
The new faces are among the 1 million Italians who will be pushed into poverty this year as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, according to estimates from Coldiretti, the farmers’ association.
Coldiretti的經濟顧問Lorenzo Bazzana說：“事情就發生在所有人的眼前。” “也許以前沒有經濟困難的家庭現在正承受著沉重的負擔，並正在向食品銀行尋求幫助。”
“What is happening is right before everyone’s eyes,” said Lorenzo Bazzana, an economic adviser to Coldiretti. “Families who perhaps were not in difficulty before are now shouldering a very heavy economic burden and are turning to food banks for help.”
離Trastevere湯品廚房不太遠的是Casino del Bel Respiro賭場，這是一座17世紀的宮殿，義大利總理Giuseppe Conte本月在這裡舉行了旨在挽救該國經濟的會談，此後他說義大利可能會超過本來預計國內生產總值出現10％的赤字，避免裁員和幫助陷入困境的行業（如旅遊業）的措施來不及等到9月，屆時政府將提出一項全面計劃以振興經濟。
Not too far away from the Trastevere soup kitchen is Casino del Bel Respiro, a 17th-century palace where the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, this month hosted talks aimed at salvaging the country’s economy, after which he said Italy was likely to exceed a projected deficit of 10% of domestic output, and that measures to avoid layoffs and help struggling sectors such as tourism could not wait until September when the government will present a comprehensive plan to relaunch the economy.
But for businesses and individuals desperately needing immediate financial support, Conte’s words amount to little more than fluff.
Italy’s slow and obstructive bureaucratic system has meant that only 30% of companies have received funding promised to them during the lockdown, and many business owners are still waiting for state-backed bank loans. Meanwhile, thousands of workers are yet to receive payments owed as part of a furlough scheme.
總部位於倫敦的研究公司Teneo的聯合總裁Wolfango Piccoli說：“在向公司和個人付款方面存在大量延遲。” “雖然每個人都在關注大人物，但歸根結底，真正重要的是國家的資金交付能力，特別是對於社會中最弱勢的人民而言。
“There is a huge amount of delay in terms of payments to companies and individuals,” said Wolfango Piccoli, the co-president of the London-based research company Teneo. “And while everyone is focusing on the big figures, at the end of the day what really matters, especially for the weakest members of society, is the state’s capacity to deliver the money.
In Italy there is a big problem with state capacity.”
As leaders grapple with the economy, much of the onus has fallen on charities and community groups to support those experiencing hardship.
In Rome, many supermarkets have adopted the “spesa sospesa” (deferred shopping) initiative, whereby shoppers can buy groceries which charities then deliver to the poor.
Last week, Pope Francis established a fund aimed at helping families in the city who are struggling.
Volunteers at Nonna Roma, a community group, now regularly deliver food parcels to 7,500 families, compared with 300 before the pandemic.
“They are the new poor,” said Alberto Campailla, one of the volunteers.
“Among them are domestic workers who lost their jobs, or people who were doing precarious work … but also young professionals who have a drastically reduced income.”
Campailla said the government should try to expand its basic income scheme, which was rolled out last year, and help people with rental payments.
“There is a serious risk of many people not being able to keep up rental payments and losing their homes,” he said.
If the EU recovery fund is approved, the money will not be shared out until 1 January. In return, member states must ensure the funding is not wasted while committing to making changes and investing in projects that bring economic growth.
Until then, the only possible funding Italy could access from Brussels is via the Sure programme, which mainly provides additional cash for furlough schemes.
Many shops and other businesses across Italy have not reopened since lockdown measures were eased. Those that have are struggling to make ends meet.
“我們的很多生意都來自取消婚禮的酒店或活動，例如婚禮，”Enzo Russo說。Enzo Russo,和他的妻子Antonella在羅馬的埃斯奎利諾（Esquilino）街區擁有一家花店。 “我們需要政府的強烈回應，如果政府繼續這樣下去，那將是非常危險的。”
“A lot of our business comes from hotels or events, such as weddings, which have been cancelled,” said Enzo Russo, who owns a florist with his wife, Antonella, in Rome’s Esquilino neighbourhood. “We need a strong response from the government, if it continues like this it could be very dangerous.”
Source: The Guardian