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Small-business owners say they have had enough of crisis

Entrepreneurs call for help at rally in popular Rome square

18 February, 14:29
Small-business owners say they have had enough of crisis (ANSA) - Rome, February 18 - Owners of small- and medium-sized businesses rallied Tuesday in a popular piazza in Rome, saying they cannot endure more economic troubles and calling for government help.

"Enough, enough, enough," chanted the group in Piazza del Popolo, including artisans, owners of small businesses, and the self-employed who say they cannot go on trying to do business in a crisis environment.

"Piazza del Popolo has today become the square of Italian entrepreneurs," shouted Giacomo Basso, leader of the group Casartigiani.

"Hear our cry, because a square filled with artisans and merchants is worth a hundred speeches".

The rally comes just days after a report was released showing that approximately 134,000 small businesses have gone bankrupt in Italy since the start of the global crisis in 2008.

Italy has gone through a double-dip recession, the second part of which was the worst economic slowdown in the post-war period.

The study by the Mestre branch of artisan and small business association CGIA said these people are especially vulnerable because in Italy they are not eligible for unemployment benefits or income support when they find themselves out of work.

Luca Squeri, an MP with the centre-right Forza Italia party, called Tuesday's rally "incredible" and said what business needs is lower taxes, less bureaucracy, free credit and labour market regulations.

Stefano Fassina, an MP with the Democratic Party (PD), said Premier-Designate Matteo Renzi, leader of the PD, is interested and will implement economic policies to help business.

"We are here to listen...the manufacturing base of this country is understandably exasperated, it needs answers and (Renzi's) transition government must put more energy on answers," said Fassina in a radio interview with Radio Città Futura.

Fassina said Renzi wants to "negotiate" with the European Union a temporary easing on certain economic rules to give Italian business some help on pulling out of the recession.

EU rules require Italy and other countries to limit their debt-to-GDP ratio at or below 3%. Italian officials have been working to meet that and other requirements so as to obtain permission from the EU to use a clause in its rules that allows for greater investment spending.