Italy’s economy is barely bigger than it was way back in 2000

Seen better days…
Seen better days…
Image: Reuters/Tony Gentile
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Italy might be the most worrying economy in Europe—well, besides Greece. The Italian economy ground to a halt between April and June, according to GDP stats released today (Aug. 12), bringing an end to five consecutive quarters of (modest) growth.

Over the past 16 years, Italy’s economy has grown by a measly 2%. Now, analysts expect GDP for 2016 to expand by less than 1%, extending the country’s miserable run of near stagnation.

Italy’s persistent malaise comes as much-needed reforms fail to materialize, debts skyrocket, and banks teeter on the edge on a crisis. The unemployment rate is stuck above 11% and the country can’t seem to shake off deflation.

In a sign of desperation, prime minster Matteo Renzi has staked his career on an autumn referendum that would alter the constitution in order to make pushing through reforms easier. It is turning into a vote of confidence in Renzi’s leadership, and the latest data won’t help his cause. He swept to power two years ago promising to break Italy out of its long funk.

Meanwhile, other GDP reports released today (paywall) make Italy’s results look even worse. The German economy beat expectations in the second quarter, and even Portugal eked out an increase in GDP. Despite an unprecedented amount of stimulus from the European Central Bank, Italy’s economy has yet to show any signs of a meaningful, durable recovery from a triple-dip recession following the global financial crisis.