Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grief gives way to anger after Italian earthquake

As Italy prepares to bury scores of the almost 300 people killed in last week’s earthquake, there are accusations that faulty building standards may have contributed to the death toll.
Amatrice, the worst hit of the hill towns where more than 200 people perished close to the epicentre of Wednesday’s 6.2 quake, will hold state funerals amid the devastation on Tuesday.
Rescue workers have given up hope of finding any more survivors almost a week after the first tremor that sent shockwaves across central Italy, destroying three hilltop towns about two hours’ drive east of Rome.
But the national outpouring of grief has partly given way to anger as magistrates investigate whether faulty building standards contributed to the death toll.
In the town of Rieti magistrates are probing whether funds intended to make buildings quake proof after an earthquake in nearby L’Aquila in 2009 were not properly used, according to reports in the Italian media.
While many of the flattened buildings were centuries old stone structures, which experts say are the most vulnerable to quakes, investigations are focusing on the local school in Amatrice that had been rebuilt recently.
If a building had collapsed in the latest quake despite it having recently been subject to building works this “could be part of the inquiry”, chief prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva said in an interview with Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.
Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister, has pledged to rebuild the villages where they stand, a shift from the policy after the L’Aquila quake in which more than 300 people died.
Mr Renzi launched a national plan for quake and risk prevention on Monday after a weekend meeting with Italian architect Renzo Piano, who has experience of quake reconstruction in Japan and the US.
“Reconstruction should be co-ordinated in the wisest and fastest way,” Mr Piano said after the meeting. “It is right to do it quickly, but even better to be done well and, above all, with the involvement of the affected people.”
Francesco Daveri, an economist at the university of Piacenza, pointed out that the city of Norcia near the epicentre in Umbria “had very little damage because they had anti-seismic buildings that were properly constructed”.
Earthquake strikes Italy
“It can be done. And even in Italy it can be done so this will set a new standard for reconstruction. Earthquakes do not make damage alone; if you have anti-seismic buildings they make less damage”, Mr Daveri said.
He believed putting money into earthquake reconstruction would be more productive than the €80 bonus or a culture bonus put in place last week in an attempt to boost the spending power of the youth.
“This is a legitimate use of money and much better and less creative than the other uses Renzi has been trying so far,” Mr Daveri added.
Under EU rules, expenditure could be increased for disaster recovery, but this was separate from any wider initiative to increase spending on capital projects.

Renzi promises to rebuild devastated towns of Umbria and Lazio

epa05508922 A handout image provided by the Chigi Palace shows Italian premier Matteo Renzi meeting some rescuers in Amatrice, central Italy, 24t August 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, in Umbria, Lazio and Marche Regions, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. According to reports more than 100 people died in the quake. EPA/TIBERIO BARCHIELLI / CHIGI PALACE / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Change of strategy after earthquake will involve political risk

“Short-term emergency costs in response to exceptional major natural catastrophes may be classified as one-offs and thus excluded from the calculation of a member state’s structural fiscal effort,” said a spokeswoman for the European Commission.
The earthquake came as Mr Renzi struggled with rising discontent over Italy’s stagnant economy, a troubled banking sector and soaring immigration. The 41-year old reformist prime minister also faces a referendum in November that analysts consider a big political risk for the survival of his centre-left government.
In the run-up to the referendum Mr Renzi has also been campaigning for greater flexibility from Brussels to boost public investment next year.
Lorenzo Codogno, an Italian economist and formerly chief macroeconomist at the Italian Treasury, noted that the quake had caused substantial loss of wealth in residential buildings and personal properties.
Nonetheless he said the nature of the economic damage — the lack of big disruptions to transport, distribution and energy production facilities — would mean limited impact on gross domestic product growth at a national level.
He believed public spending might more than offset the negative impact of the quake over the near term.
“A tentative estimate would call for a small positive effect on GDP growth and about 0.2 per cent to 0.3 per cent of GDP in extra costs for public finances spread over the next there years,” he said.

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