What do you call a country that has grown 4.6 per cent – in total – since it joined the euro 16 years ago? Well, probably the one most likely to leave the common currency. Or Italy, for short.
It’s hard to say what went wrong with Italy, because nothing ever went right. It grew 4 per cent its first year or so in the euro, but almost not at all in the 15 years since. Now, that’s not to say that it’s been flat the whole time. It hasn’t. It got as much as 14 per cent bigger as it was when it joined the euro, before the 2008 recession and 2011 double-dip erased most of that progress. But unlike, say, Greece, there was never much of a boom. There has only been a bust. The result, though, has been the same. Greece and Italy have both grown a meager 4.6 per cent the past 16 years, although they took drastically different paths to get there.