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The Economist

The International Balance of Payments -New Savings and their Investments

«The Economist», 5 gennaio 1924, pp. 19-20

 

Turin, December 26

 

 

Very wild statements have been published from time to time about the international balance of payments between Italy and foreign countries.

 

 

Fortunately an inquiry by Professor Jannaccone, published in a new edition of “Documents on the Financial and Economic Situation of Italy”, presented by the Minister of Finance, Signor De Stefani, to Parliament, gives, for the year 1922, a new estimate of the complete balance of payments (in millions of lire):

 

 

 

Credit

Debit

 

Difference between imports and exports of goods

– 6,462.4

Difference between imports and exports of gold and money

– 37.7

Difference between sums remitted to Italy and those brought

about by emigrants

3,400.0

Difference between passive and active freights for the transportation of emigrants and travellers

115.6

Goods freights due to the Italian mercantile marine

527.0

Difference between expenditure of Italian mercantile marine abroad and foreign marine in Italy

203.1

Difference between sums due and sums credited for international railway services

132.3

Difference between sums spent by foreign travellers in Italy and Italians abroad

2,500.0

Difference in postal remittances between Italy and foreign countries

274.7

Interests on Italian public debt paid abroad

115.6

Interest on banking current net accounts

140.0

Difference between profits of Italian firms abroad and foreign firms in Italy

30.0

War reparations received from Germany (net cost of occupation, control, &c, expenditure)

440.5

7,287.8

7,091.1

Public debt bonds sold in foreign countries, mosdy to Italian emigrants

460.0

Repayment of public debt bonds, sold and repaid in foreign countries

412.8

Purchase of foreign securities

12.0

To balance: Italian credit at the end of the year

7,747.8

231.9

7,747.8

 

 

The balance of payments last year was thus closed very favourable to Italy. It should be added that, while the 412.8 millions of public debt bonds were repaid to foreign Governments, such as Brazil, &c, who, during the war, sold goods to Italian Governments without payment in cash, the 460 million lire of bonds sold in foreign countries cannot be considered as true debts to foreigners, as it is highly probable that they were bought by Italian emigrants, who will reinvest the yearly accruing interests in Italian securities.

The above is an official, i.e., a very prudent, estimate, whose errors, if any, are on the adverse side. A private investigator, Signor Mazzucchelli, author of an interesting booklet, “Dati finanziari italiani”, published by the Credito Italiano, draws an even more favourable picture for the same year, 1922 (millions of lire):

 

 

 

Credit

 

Debit-

Difference between imports and exports of goods

5,300

Difference between active and passive freights and other items

300

Difference between sums spent by foreign travellers in Italy and Italians abroad

2,500

Remittances of Italian emigrants abroad to Italy

3,600

Interest on foreign capital, commissions and profits of foreign firms, maritime insurance, &c

350

Interests on Italian public debt and others paid abroad

300

Interest on Italian securities held mostly by Italians in America

200

Interests on Italian capitals invested abroad

500

6,900

6,150

Sale of Italian securities abroad

500

Difference between Italian investments abroad and foreign investments in Italy

250

Nationalisation of foreign companies in Italy and repayment of Italian debts to foreign creditors

7,400

1,000

7,400

 

 

In 1922 we invested in foreign countries or paid debts to foreigners up to 1,250 million lire, while we sold securities or indebted ourselves only to the extent of 500 millions, and such securities were, moreover, sold to Italians living abroad.

 

 

Various other interesting figures could be extracted from Signor De Stefani’s report, or Mazzucchelli’s brochure. Among other things they show that the gold-value of the lira, after touching bottom in 1920, has not varied much in the last three years. This fact was favourable to savings, which can be said to have increased in proportion to the depreciation of the lira. Deposits in saving and other banks were:

 

 

 

Millions of Lire

 

At June 30, 1914 7,822.7
1918 12,587.8
1921 27,889.2
1922 28,819.1
1923 32,334.0

 

 

Correspondent accounts – such is the name by which many current de­posit accounts are styled in Italy – in banks with more than one million lire capital were:

 

 

 

Millions of Lire

 

At December 31, 1913 1,053.2
1918 6,308.1
1921 14,013.2
1922 14.746.2

 

 

The total of national savings invested in banking deposits, current and correspondent accounts, amounted, according to Signor Mazzucchelli, at December 31, 1922, at 50 milliards lire, and increased to 53 milliards at June 30, 1923. The new savings invested in State bonds, public and private securities, banking deposits, current and correspondent accounts, house building, industries, agricultural improvements, and in various other sundry ways may be estimated in all for 1922 at 12 milliards lire. In 1891 the then director general of the National Statistical Service, Signor Bodio, estimated the annual increment of the national wealth at 500 millions lire. Even after taking into account the depreciation of the lira, the present 12,000 millions, brought down, for the sake of comparison, to 2,000 millions [gold-1891] lire, compare very favourably with the 500 millions lire which was the figure for that date. It is significant that new savings are being increasingly invested in industrial enterprises. The number and capital of joint-stock companies have increased as follows:

 

 

 

Number

With a Capital of Millions Lire

 

1863

379

1,331

1880

581

1,811

1913

2,882

5,170

1920

5,995

17,683

June 30, 1923

7,266

22,706

November 30, 1923

7,683

23,755

 

 

The few figures given above may be taken as a good omen for the economic progress of Italy in the New Year.

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