Italy’s New Land Reform Is Not As Good As It Appears

The Italian government is about to pass a budget package that provides for the grant of 1,5 billion hectares to large families. Although it may appear as a bright idea, nevertheless, this proposal breeds uncertainty.

By Michele Paolo

According to the new financial manoeuvre, the yellowgreen cabinet wants to oppose both depopulation in the countryside and the slump in the birth rate, by giving overgrown, state-owned lands to families that are supposed to have their third child in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

In addition, not only farmlands would be given a free public concession of twenty years, but a new monetary fund would be also established in order to grant mortgage loans up to 200 thousand euros applying zero interests, so that the families will be able to buy a house close to their land. The same measure applies to young farmers who reserve at least 30 percent of their company to their large families. Lastly, it is worth highlighting the fact that 50 percent of public farms and 50 percent of vacant lots in South Italy are included in this “agrarian reform”.

Anachronistic and ineffective

Although this provision may result as a forward-looking idea due to the supposed chance to kill two birds (depopulation in the countryside and low birth rate) with one stone, truthfully it is anachronistic and ineffective for the avowed objectives. In fact, in terms of birth rate, the average number of children per woman has decreased, averaging 1,46 in 2010 and 1,34 in 2016, and the situation can only get worse, as the economic crisis is still affecting natality. Moreover, the new provision would affect only large families, few households compared to the small ones. According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) indeed, 60 percent of Italian families consist of only one or two people.

Besides, the fact that the manoeuvre does not include investments for improving the lands shall not be underestimated. As a consequence, a (rare) large family would go into debt, having to resort to bank lending to make their assets productive.

Young people last

It appears that the government’s action is basically propaganda, since the scheme would apply only to very few Italian families. Furthermore, in so doing the administration shows that it does not consider that Italian youngsters are deeply unemployed, as more than 30 percent of them is out of work, peaking at 40 precent in Calabria and Sicily.

The cabinet’s action aimed at tackling low birth rate and rural depopulation is simply a nonsense, looking more like an electoral advertising and a measure witfully inspired by old fascist policies. The Italian executive should be aware that young people need a job, especially in the South, before channeling resources to address depopulation and low birth rate.