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Its good to be back

17 May 2006 Angelo Coppola

There is a school of thought that says that one has to be without something for a period to truly appreciate it. Well, Im a new member of that club. I have just returned from a short trip to Italy and I have to say that its a wonderful country to visit as

If we thought house prices were high here, consider that the cost of a two bedroom apartment with 1 bathroom goes for an astonishing E1.6m, or at current SA Rand exchange rates of R8 to E1 = a cool R12.8m.

And no, the apartment isnt in Roma, its in Truni, a small city on the on the outskirts of Bari in the South of Italy, which is not known for its high wages and extravagant lifestyles. And no there is no view, except of the high street and its in an old building, with dubious plumbing and centuries-old walls.

And while all the local SA economists are talking about that strong currency of ours, it doesnt really apply to people traveling from SA, who earn an average wage locally. Its still very expensive to travel internationally.

I guess I shouldnt moan as we have it better than people traveling from Zimbabwe to any other country in the world.

Back to Italy however. It appears that help is at hand for this country, as the European Union, of which it is a member has decided to help kick start the dual economy. The North is the more prosperous area while the South has lagged behind.

The EU has pumped millions of euros into the South, helping to establish entrepreneurial businesses, which they see as the driver to growth. They have also invested in a high speed rail network linking Naples, to Roma, Milan, and Berlin.

Perhaps we can learn some lessons here? While much has been said, not a lot has been done to assist our entrepreneurs. Thats not fair. There has been some movement at government level. Theres some VAT documentation relief, the dti offers incentives, and

Well, its a start. Isnt it?

Now back to Italy, and the drivers. Well, as a seasoned South African driver used to carnage on our roads, I prepared myself for the roads of Naples. And I was pleasantly surprised.

I managed to hold my own, and got through an entire day of no accidents or bad language. Lots of hooting and a general sense of everyone in the car being in the same position, so relax and enjoy the action. Also it appears that because most people are licensed and the cars are road-worthy and licensed, everyone respects everyone elses property.

All drivers we encountered generally reacted and behaved in a predictable fashion so driving became less stressful, and thus there was movement in the right direction.

On the subject of cars, Im still struggling understand why the range of vehicles available to us are so expensive, in relation to the salaries earned?

And while the competition commission made much of the fine they imposed on certain car manufacturers a few months ago, prices have not come down. It appears that the manufacturers are competing on interest rate differentials and not value for money? So what about competition issues?

Makes you think, doesn't it?

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