With just a few days to go before polling the state of the economy is emerging as an important issue.
With just a few days to go before polling the state of the economy is emerging as an important issue. Critics of the ruling Christian Democrats claim that the present problems merely reflect long-term structural mismanagement.
SYNOPSIS: Next Sunday and Monday Italians will be voting in what many commentators see as Italy's most crucial election since 1948. Management of the economy has been a major campaign issue.
The Italian economy is dominated by publicly owned corporations. But these corporations act with a great amount of autonomy. Alfa Romeo, for example, is owned by IRI, a state-holding company which amongst other things owns Italian Radio and Television. The Communists have accused the state corporations of strangling the Italian economy by pre-empting the private sector by taking the major share of all new investment capital - and then not using it wisely.
Those private companies which have managed to survive have usually had to rely on injections of capital from outside Italy to remain financially solvent.
As a counterweight to the state and multinational organisations the Communists are keen on encouraging small and medium sized businesses - what they describe as the backbone of the economy. Over the past few years they have made a determined bid for the support of the small businessman promising him wide-ranging tax incentives and credit facilities.
Paradoxically they also advocate a greater role for the stock exchange, making capital more readily available for private enterprise and thus reducing the importance of the state organisations.
Critics of the Communists say that one of the main causes of Italy's economic troubles has been the growth of union power since the war. The Communists dominate the union movement. But Communists argue that if they were in government the trade unions would be more responsive to national needs - moderating wage claims for the sake of the economy.
Italian industrialists have expressed concern about the prospects of Communists in government, especially with the Lire still vulnerable to speculative pressure and an inflation rate, currently running at 24 per cent a year.
Whether or not the Italian electorate shares their worries remains to be seen - but whatever the make-up of the new government a serious economic situation will have to be faced and overcome.