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The Economist

Italy

«The Economist», 21 marzo 1936, pp. 644-645

 

 

 

Reorganisation of the Bank of Italy. – A far-reaching reform was decided on at the last session of the Cabinet Council. The pivot of the reform is the transformation of the Bank of Italy from an ordinary and issuing bank, primus inter pares, into a fully equipped Central Bank on the modern pattern.

 

 

To understand the change one must go back to the old Risorgimento days, before 1850, when banks were practically non-existent; and two small banks, the Banca di Torino and the Banca di Genova, obtained the privilege of note issue, and, in the absence of deposits, were thus enabled to make discounts and advances. In 1850, these two banks were amalgamated under the title of Banca Nazionale degli Stati Sardi. With this unification, the National Bank of the Sardinian States become the National Bank in (not of) the Kingdom, because in the other Italian States there existed sev­eral other banks of issue. In 1893 the National Bank in the Kingdom assumed the title of Bank of Italy, and two other banks retained the right to issue notes: the Banks of Naples and of Sicily. In 1926, those two banks lost this right, which was reserved for the Bank of Italy.

 

 

The development of the Bank of Italy has thus assigned it a twofold function: that of issuing notes and the ordinary function of receiving deposits and making advances and discounts for the general commercial public. In the first respect the Bank of Italy was a central controlling bank; in the second it was a rival, sometimes a keen rival, of other banks in the quest for commercial paper. The rivalry was increasingly resented by other banks, the more so when in 1926 the Bank of Italy became the supervisor of the other banks.

 

 

Meanwhile, the reasons which had once prompted the bank of issue to provide deposits and discounts had ceased to be operative. Banking had grown and had become a very complex structure. Century-old saving banks had become colossal. Big joint-stock banks, after a period of gigantic expansion, had begun to ask the State to come to their rescue. Thousands of medium-sized and small joint-stock and co-operative banks rose, like mushrooms, sometimes with good results and sometimes bad. Old institutions like the Meridional Banks and pawn shops (Monte di Pietà) had ac­quired a high standing.

 

 

The new Act aims at systematising the effects of this haphazard historical growth. The structure will be as follows:

 

 

  1. The Bank of Italy, transformed into a bankers’ bank. Henceforth, it will be limited to re-discounting the paper of other banks and credit institutions. Advances, however, to the general public on State security collateral may still be made. All shares will be bought from present shareholders at the price of 1,300 lire net, plus current 60 lire dividend, the sum paid being inclusive of ca­pital paid and reserves. New inscribed shares will be issued, but subscriptions will be limited to savings banks, public banks, insurance institutes and other corporate bodies.
  2. Public credit institutes, which include such institutes as the Banks of Naples and Sicily, Labour National Bank, Siena Monte dei Paschi, Turin S. Paul Institute; which at the middle of past year had 4,400 million lire of saving and current deposits.
  3. Public banks. In these are included all those banks which extend their activity to more than 30 provinces (the total of provinces is 93). Three banks, the Banca Commerciale Italiana, Credito Italiano and Banco di Roma, are included in this category; all of them are already controlled by the State, through the Institute of Industrial Reconstruction, which holds the greater part of their shares.
  4. All other joint-stock and private banks. According to the latest report of the Bank of Italy there are 305 joint-stock banks, 282 private banks and 473 co-operative limited liability banks. These, together with the preceding group, control about 14,000 million lire of deposits, of which probably 3,000 million is the share of the three public banks.
  5. Branches of foreign banks.
  6. Saving banks, which are already semi-public bodies, mostly without shareholders.
  7. Pawn institutions or Monti di Pietà. These are more like saving banks, though they retain some traces of their old pawn duties. Their deposits amount to 650 million lire.
  8. Rural and agricultural banks. This category includes the greater part of what are known under the usual classification as co-operative unlimited liability banks, which control from 900 to 1,000 million lire of deposits.

 

 

If to the deposits above quoted we add 20,000 millions deposited in the Postal Saving Banks, we may safely conclude that out of a total of 60,000 million lire of deposits not more than from 10,000 millions to 12,000 millions are controlled by ordinary joint-stock or private banks (groups 4, 5 and 8), the rest being controlled by public or semi-public institutions.

 

 

The supervision of deposits and credit which, according to the 1926 law, was the duty of the Bank of Italy, is now to be transferred to a body called “Inspectorate for the defence of savings and the distribution of credit”, presided over by the Governor of the Bank of Italy. A Ministerial Committee, put under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, and composed by the Finance, Corporations and Agriculture Ministers and the Governor of the Bank of Italy, are to control the general policy of the whole credit system.

 

 

Apart from the banking system proper, whose functions should be generally restricted to short-term credit, the new law also regulates the medium-term and long-term credit markets:

 

 

  1. Medium-term credit will be in the charge of the Istituto Italiano Mobiliare, which will absorb the old consortium for industrial advances.
  2. Long-term credit will be in the charge of the existing Land Credit Institute, the Agricultural Credit Consortium, the Public Work Consortium, the Public Utilities Credit Institute, and the Foreign Labour Credit Institute.
  3. The Institute for Industrial Reconstruction will renounce its long-term credit duties and concentrate upon its liquidation work, i.e. the administration and winding-up of industrial concerns purchased from the big banks in past years. All institutions included in groups a), b) and c) are public bodies, the capital of which is, directly or indirectly, State-owned.

 

 

The new “Inspectorate” will extend its supervision not only to short-term credit banks and to medium-term and long-term credit activities, but also to the Stock Exchanges, and to all issues of securities and increases in the capital of joint-stock companies arranged through banks and credit institutions.

 

 

Turin, March 6.

 

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