The Great Debate

Italy pays its people to go on vacation



The following article by Silvia Marchetti first appeared in GlobalPost.

ROME, Italy — “Exploit your holidays to discover your unique, magical Italy,” intones Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in a new TV ad encouraging Italians to vacation at home this year.

For those Italians still unsure of exactly why they should “discover” Italy — according to Berlusconi, a land not just of “sky, sun and sea but also of history, culture and art — the state has thrown in a sweetener: it will help pay for citizens’ summer or winter breaks by granting “holiday vouchers.”

Berlusconi’s government believes that tourism can be a strategic tool in Italy’s economic recovery, but only if Italians spend money for vacations at home instead of abroad.

The coupons are available to all low-income families, especially those with many children, who wish to go to the seaside or mountains but can’t normally afford it. If the state has its way, visits to sunny beaches or historical cities will no longer be a privilege for the few, but a right of the many.

The new series of coupons can be used from Aug. 23 until July 3, 2011, though they’re restricted around the Christmas period. The Tourism Ministry has set up a website [2] through which citizens can apply for vouchers and book vacations, choosing from a wide range of offers and staying at hotels plugged into the government’s initiative.

How the bailout feeds bloated banker pay

jamessaft1– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Rising pay in the finance sector in the wake of the global financial crisis is no surprise and is driven partly by the government’s bailout itself and the underwriting of banks that are too big to fail.

News that some financial firms benefitting from government largesse actually increased the share of revenue they pay their employees sparked a lot of outrage but more heat than light.