Italy Economy and Finance – The Postwar Period Part 1

A situation, in some respects similar to that which faced unified Italy in 1860, with a sum of immeasurably wider and at the same time urgent problems, presented itself to Italy on April 26, 1945, when the whole territory returned to a single administration. First of all, it was necessary to clear the rubble, and not just the material ones, of a war that had lasted almost five years, and to collect the heavy legacy of a twenty-year absence of democracy. The summary inventory of this inheritance was serious: the national patrimony (estimated at 700 billion lire in 1938) could be considered reduced by almost a third due to destruction, damage, unsubstituted wear, consumption of stocks, contraction of production efficiency. The merchant ship had a consistency of 600,000 tons, that is, one sixth of the pre-war one; one quarter of transport damaged in rail assets, one third in bridges and warehouses, half in freight wagons, and four fifths in passenger wagons. The network of private railways has been reduced by a quarter, the number of motor vehicles in circulation by two thirds. Significant damage to agriculture, both direct and through the diminished fertility of the land (cereal production had contracted by half compared to the pre-war period and total agricultural production by 6 tenths); the damage to industrial heritage is not very serious, but sensitive in some sectors. Overall, the country’s production capacity was estimated to be reduced to four-fifths of the pre-war one, but other factors diminished the real modest production possibilities.

The possibilities of placing industrial products internally – in a market with a very low level of incomes, absorbed for about 85% by food consumption – are scarce and those on foreign markets are still very modest, both because the interrupted traffic flows required a renewed difficult work of penetration (think that in 1941 Germany had become a customer of Italy for more than half of exports and supplier for two thirds of imports, while in 1938 it was respectively for a fifth and a quarter), and for control on foreign trade maintained by the allies, both for the high costs of national production and for the scarce availability of raw materials and energy resources, and finally for the slow reactivation of international communications.

According to TOP-ENGINEERING-SCHOOLS.ORG, a large process of migration to the countryside, which took place during the period of the aerial bombings, had moved the residence of large numbers of families and their return to partially destroyed urban centers, together with the influx of veterans and inmates, further aggravated the problem. of houses (the availability of rooms per dwelling had reduced from one room for 1.32 residents in 1938 to one for 1.53 at the end of the war) and caused the problem of unemployment to appear with greater intensity than the other post-war period. To deal with which, at first, in the North, they resorted to the extension of the block on dismissals, a provision in force during the war to the north of the Gothic line, and whose legal effect was then to last until August 1947, while the effects – discouragement of new activities and increase in costs – were also felt subsequently, albeit gradually attenuated in small and medium-sized enterprises. Despite this picture of unsatisfied social needs, meager average levels of material life (from 2,795 calories per day per resident in 1936-40 it had dropped to 1733 in 1945), threatening growing unemployment, widespread discontent and burdensome inheritances, the ‘Italy lived for a few months in the euphoria of hopes aroused by peace and timely international aid and in the meantime the CIAI (Upper Italy Industrial Council) provided for an initial programming of allied aid and coordination of initiatives, a premise for the industrial recovery of the North. The inventory of The war adventure began to manifest itself more clearly in 1946, when – administratively reunited the two sections into which the national territory was divided and the military occupation that had prolonged the difficulties of a double legislation – the inevitable after-effects of the great destruction of wealth and productive inactivity became more evident: the state machine manifested its incomplete and hasty reconstitution; immediate and material needs overlapped with overt long-term aspirations; monetary inflation, which had hitherto been partially repressed, proved unstoppable and seemed limitless.

The condition of the state budget was, in fact, judged to be of particular gravity and the monetary circulation seemed to be starting at a desperate pace towards the slope of which the post-war German mark had left such an indelible memory. The public debt had risen (at the end of 1945) to 878 billion (of which more than two thirds floating). The cost of living, equal to 25 times in the North and 29 in the Center-South the level of 1938, showed no sign of slowing down the rise, despite the influx of foreign aid in foodstuffs, which strongly compressed real wages (the average nominal wage of the unskilled worker was 15 times pre-war), stimulated wage agitations, flattened the gap between the compensation of managers and technicians and those at the bottom of the worker scale.

Italy Economy and Finance - The Postwar Period 1