Courtesy Reuters

Poverty and Population in the South

New Italy Faces Old Problems

THE regions of Calabria, Lucania and Apulia are the Achilles heel of Italy and perhaps of Western Europe as a whole. Their problem is basically agrarian, and it is intricate because of endless local diversity. When one goes to southern Italy, right down into the toe (Calabria) and the heel which is called the Salento (southern Apulia), one finds oneself in a pre-industrial age. In so far as the industrial revolution had an effect, it has spelt decline. The natural defeatism of the Italians of the south has in consequence deepened. Nonetheless, specialists on Italian agriculture -- for example, Professor Manlio Rossi-Doria, one of the foremost authorities on the subject -- are convinced that southern Italy has great potentialities. They believe that if its problems can be energetically tackled, while Marshall Plan funds are available, what is probably the worst "undeveloped area" in Western Europe can be transformed into a European asset. If, on the other hand, the problem is shirked, as it has been for the last 50 years and more, the situation can become only worse and worse.

It is not true that the Italians of the south are dirty or lazy, and still less is it true that they are stupid; but roughly half of them are illiterate, and their health is miserable. The climate is dry (without rain in the summer) and the dryness has been intensified by the severe deforestation of the last 90 years; the climate, however, has the compensating mildness of the Mediterranean zone so favorable to olive tree and vine. There are parts of the region, in particular a strip along the western or Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria, where the soil is rich, though inland and higher up the soil seems very poor. Large areas are completely undeveloped and wasted; in some of the most arid-looking districts water is not far beneath the earth's surface, yet no one digs down to get it.

One evil pervades the whole Mezzogiórno (as the Italians call the

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