Key Facts: Italy

by World Grain Staff
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Capital: Rome

Population: 58,126,212 (July 2009 est.) Religions: Roman Catholic 90% (approximately; about one-third practicing), other 10% (includes mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community).

Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia.

Government: Republic; chief of state: President Giorgio Napolitano (since May 15, 2006); head of government: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (since May 8, 2008).

Economy: Italy has a diversified industrial economy, which is divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, welfare dependent, agricultural south, with high unemployment. The Italian economy is driven in large part by the manufacture of high-quality consumer goods produced by small and medium-sized enterprises, many of them family owned. Italy also has a sizable underground economy, which by some estimates accounts for as much as 15% of GDP. These activities are most common within the agriculture, construction and service sectors. Italy has moved slowly on implementing needed structural reforms, such as reducing graft, overhauling costly entitlement programs, and increasing employment opportunities for young workers, particularly women. These conditions will be exacerbated in the near-term by the global economic downturn, but in the longer-term Italy’s low fertility rate and quota-driven immigration policies will increasingly strain its economy. The Italian government has struggled to limit government spending, but Italy’s exceedingly high public debt remains above 115% of GDP, and its fiscal deficit - just 1.5% of GDP in 2007 - exceeded 5% in 2009 as the costs of servicing the country’s debt rose. A tax amnesty program implemented in late 2009 to repatriate untaxed assets held abroad has netted the federal government more than $135 billion. GDP per capita: $30,300 (2009 est.); inflation: 0.6% (2009); unemployment 7.5% (2009 est.).

Currency: Euro (EUR). 1 U.S. dollar equals .809162 euros (May 19, 2010).

Exports: $369 billion (2009 est.): engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals; food, beverages and tobacco; minerals and nonferrous metals.

Imports: $358.7 billion (2009 est.): engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing; food, beverages, and tobacco.

Major crops/agricultural products: Fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives; beef, dairy products, fish.

Agriculture: 2.1% of GDP and 4.2% of the labor force

Internet: Code. .it; 22.152 million (2009) hosts and 24.992 million (2008) users.

Source: CIA World Factbook