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War, drought, food shortage... Why Italy finds itself on the brink today

War in Eastern Europe, prolonged drought, soaring inflation and an energy crisis have put the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi in a tight spot today and left Italians in anguish.

Why Italy finds itself on the brink today: War, drought, food shortage
Rome, First Published Jul 14, 2022, 10:32 AM IST

Italy is a mess for more than just one reason, and that has put the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi in a tight spot today. The war in Eastern Europe has been taking its economic toll on the country. Draghi's recent solidarity visit to Ukraine left Russia fuming and consequently slashing the supply of gas through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline citing "10-day routine maintenance".

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Italy is in the midst of its worst drought in 70 years. The drought has put a third of Italy’s agricultural production at risk, the cost of living has shot up, supplies of staple olive oil, risotto rice and passata are short, and people are getting desperate. 

The video below shows people storming the city hall in La Spezia, complaining that they do not have the money to buy bread. "What will my daughter eat tonight," a woman is heard asking in anguish.

Prime Minister Draghi, meanwhile, announced that he would roll out emergency measures to tackle the worsening situation. He sought to put in place 'stable structural interventions' to control the rising inflation.

Italy's agriculture minister, Stefano Patuanelli, told Parliament that compared to 1921-1950, the country had lost 19 per cent of its available water resources between 1991 and 2020. He warned that this could further dip to 40 per cent in the next few decades. Thirty per cent of the country's rice crop has been devastated. 

The Po River, which irrigates a portion of north-central Italy from where a third of national agricultural production happens, has dried up. Emergency has been declared in several northern regions. 

Political Instability

Amid the ongoing economic and energy crisis, Prime Minister Draghi's ruling coalition itself is on the brink, with the populist 5Star Movement threatening to walk away from the government. 

Draghi will have to face a confidence vote if the 26 billion Euro cost-of-living bill, which comprises measures to counter inflation and rising energy costs, does not get the support of the 5Star Movement that has been seeking an increase in budget expenditures and welfare payments.

The 5Star Movement has been opposing the bill for environmental reasons. One among them is a proposal to create a new garbage incinerator for Rome.

However, Draghi has refused to buckle before the demands of the 5Star Movement and made it clear that his government will not work with ultimatums.

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