A Strike among Public Servants – Yield of Taxes

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The Economist

Data di pubblicazione: 11/06/1921

A Strike among Public Servants – Yield of Taxes

«The Economist», 11 giugno 1921, p. 1279

 

 

 

Turin, June 5

 

 

The week has been characterised by an agitation among public servants. It appears than on the eve of general elections, Signor Corradini, Under-Secretary to the Home Department, let it be understood that monthly salaries would be increased by 200 lire, irrespective of grades. At the end of May, when the so-called promise should have been fulfilled, Signor Bonomi, the Treasury Minister, found out that the promise was never given by any authorised member of the Government, should never have been given, and, above all, could not be fulfilled. The cost of public servants had already increased from 900 million lire in 1914 to 5,300 million lire in 1921.

 

 

This last sum represents more than a third of public income; and as, roughly, another third is absorbed by interest on debt, it appears impossible to exceed the present expenditure. The problem, however, is not to be put aside by the simple plea of impossibility. Public servants are making appeal to justice, pointing out that salaries given to the great and well-organised category of State railway servants are much higher than the salaries of all other public employees.

 

 

It is in vain that Ministers and politicians point out that railwaymen are working on an industrial basis, that the State railways should be regarded as an industrial concern, with wages and salaries equal to those prevailing in the private industry. Public servants reply that the railway work is no more difficult than theirs, and that all public salaries should be made uniform. Railway salaries have been increased, they say, not by reason of the special difficulty of the work done, but in consequence of better organisation, and of strikes threatened or actually put in effect last year. The bad example has fructified, at present the public employees are at Rome, and in several other great cities practicing the so-called white strike; that is, they are at present in their office rooms, but they abstain from working. The Government have let it be known that they are disposed to increase salaries, if it is possible to diminish the number of public employees, so that the total expenditure shall not exceed the present 5,300 million lire. The all round increase of 200 lire a month would cost 900 million lire, and the equalisation to railway employees’ salaries would put up the expense to 8,000 million lire. The charge would be absolutely unbearable. Figures which are coming to hand point to an increase in public income, but we are far from the sum which would be necessary to satisfy the requests put forward by public employees.

 

 

Below are given the figures of “principal” items of public income for the first nine months (from July 1st to March 31st) of the last and current financial years (in millions of lire):

 

 

 

1919-20

 

1920-21

Income-taxes

1,485-7

2,371 0

Succession duties and other registration duties

465-4

568-8

Stamp taxes

463-4

894-4

Excise and Customs

907-6

1,254-3

Industrial monopolies (salt, tobacco, matches, and playcards)

1,286-2

2,025-1

Lottery

70-4

106-7

Commercial monopolies (coffee and coffee substitutes)

272-5

368-6

Total…

4,951 1

7,588-9

 

 

The results obtained are highly gratifying, and it is to be hoped that the sum total of these principal items may touch the record of 11,000 million lire at the end of the financial year, and that the “minor” items will bring the general total of public income even higher, to 12 or 13 billion lire; and that the natural development of new taxes will give next year a total even higher, up to 15,000 million lire. But there are not wanting ominous signs of distress owing to the great increase of taxation. Especially the confiscation of war profits, i.e., the increase of the tax to 100 per cent., is the cause of the gravest financial difficulties to many taxpayers. As the law prescribes that the stocktaking for purposes of taxation shall be made at the date of June 30, 1920, and as at that date we in Italy had reached the high water mark of prices, the taxpayers are at the same time facing the tumbling down of prices and the demands of the taxing officers based on profits calculated on past high prices. As a result of increasing protests on behalf of taxpayers, the Government have felt obliged to grant some delay for the payment of the tax. But I am afraid they will be obliged to grant also important reliefs in the hardest cases.

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