Are Italian Mini-Bots Coming For You?

Are the ‘bots about to start trading Italian mini-BOTs?

Talk of a parallel currency in Rome is spooking some in the analyst community.

A proposal is being kicked around to issue small-denomination bonds — so-called mini-BOTs (short-term treasury bills) —  used by recipients to pay taxes or to buy goods or services from state-owned companies.  If the plan is realized, it could set Rome on the path to a parallel currency and an eventual “Black Wednesday.” where Italy leaves the euro.

Supporters, include Lega, one of Italy’s ruling parties.

Opponents argue it would lead to higher public debt and chaos.

“If Italy goes down that rout, it will in my opinion be a disaster for the country. You are going to have a loss of general confidence in the Italian debt in the markets,” Jacob Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics told CNBC last week.  – CNBC

Contrary to conventional wisdom,  Italy’s debt problem is really rooted in the economy’s inability to grow.

Yet the Italian public finances are in a frightful mess. The ratio of government debt to GDP is now at 132pc. Danger territory is supposed to begin at 90pc. Even so, excluding interest payments, the government actually runs a budget surplus. Indeed, it has done so for 25 of the last 27 years. Italy shouldn’t have to squeeze its budget still further. The fiscal problem derives from a combination of a heavy weight of debt incurred in the past and very sluggish economic growth, continuing into the present.  – Roger Bootle, Telegraph

Italy Primary Surplus

Italy Growth

The adoption of the euro along with an unhealthy banking system, which is saddled with bad loans from the debt crisis, has partly contributed to almost no economic growth since January 1999, the introduction of the common currency.

The real problem is structural, however, rooted in demographics and the lack of productivity growth.  A rigid labor market, bloated public sector, nepotism,  limited investment in human capital and education, and the small size of most companies, are some of the explanations given for the country’s stagnant productivity.

Italian_Spread

 

Italian_bond_buyers

FocusEconomics projects Italy’s GDP growth coming in at just 0.1% in 2019 and 0.6% in 2020.

FocusEconomics

Talk or even rumors of currency devaluations, much less kicking around proposals for an effective parallel currency risks setting off nonlinear dynamics, which are difficult to predict and control.   These issues are best discussed behind closed doors and in secret, then sprung on markets unexpectedly before panic forces the action.

We sense it is about to get very interesting in Euroland.

Stay tuned.

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