Clearly, we are facing a disheartening situation here in Italy, where I study at one of Rome’s pontifical universities. It seems that every day brings more bad news, more regulations, and more uncertainty. Public health resources and state coffers are also stretched rail thin.
As Italy’s public funds have been rapidly depleting, the gap certainly needs to be filled and filled quickly. In the face of this massive financial challenge, and despite the constant demonizing of the richest 1% “who only look out for themselves,” Italy has just received some inspiring news from some its wealthiest private citizens and businesses.
A series of major donations from private firms and wealthy individuals has been reported for a whopping €153,600,000 ($165,600,000). The Italian philanthropy has arrived in the nick of time to bailout sickly state financing of the ever-increasing healthcare emergency. Italy’s medical facilities have been strained, perhaps irreversibly in the short-term. These philanthropists are economic heroes and are leading the way to change an Italian philanthropic culture in which citizens donate very little of their private income. In 2018 only 7.65 million (27%) individuals in Italy were registered as giving donations to non-profit associations or foundations whereas in America it is estimated at least 80% give to private charities.
Instead of bunkering at private islands, hiding out at mountain villas or sinking all their liquid assets in precious metals as a hedge against potential currency devaluations, the following – Italian singers, executives, sport clubs, businesses – have made record donations to stem the coronavirus crisis:
- Banca Intesa San Paolo: €100,000,000
- Silvio Berlusconi: €10,000,000
- Agnelli Family (FIAT-CHRYSLER, Juventus Football club): €10,000,000
- Giuseppe Caprotti Junior: €10,000,000
- Lavazza: 10,000,000
- Fedez and Chiara Ferragni (pop singer and wife): €4,100,000 between personal and crowdfunding
- Benetton: €3,000,000
- Esselunga Supermarket: €2,500,000
- Kering Brand Developers: €2,000,000
- Giorgio Armani: €1,250,000
- Orogel Frozen Foods: 800,000
- Donatella Versace: €200,000
- Brembo Autoparts: €150,000
- Steven Zhang (President of Inter Football club): €100,000
- Marco Bizarri (CEO of Gucci): €100,000
- Laura Pausini (pop singer): €100,000
- Eurospin Supermarket: €100,000
- Mediolanum Investment Bank: €100,000
- Sergio Rossi (Shoe designer): €100,000
In addition to the above, the Prada fashion industry giant has just committed to funding six intensive therapy centers in Milan, so the list is growing.
You may recognize some of these names – some are major politicians or brand-name designers, some are a little lesser known outside of Italy. Notably missing from the list of major donations, as reported, for instance, by Il Fatto Quotidiano, are Communist officials and leaders.
While the funds will certainly be allocated to different needs, let’s look at just a few numbers to give a little perspective, while keeping in mind the available data on confirmed cases of infection.
For example, the now famous N95 antiviral masks, which have recently spiked in price, are made from a special fabric requiring a surprisingly expensive machine to produce them. This machine costs about €3.8 million each. Around 40 new machines could be supplied with the above amount of funding.
Some entrepreneurial engineers in Italy are using 3D printing to create valves for ventilators. Each 3D part costs about €2-3 to make, bringing the funding capacity to something between 51.2 million and 76.8 million units.
A fully-equipped ICU bed typically costs about €25,000 Euro, so the above private funding would pay for over 6,000 beds.
Premium ventilators that keep airflow going into the lungs can cost around €50,000 each. Hence, with the total charitable giving hospitals could purchase at least 3,000 new ventilators.
As already pointed out, the funds will be not all go to one place, and of course the solution is more complex than simply “buying more beds and equipment,” but this has helped make up for the shortfalls of increasingly troubled public financing while aggressively fighting the coronavirus.
As this private funding starts to become effective, more and more donors will surely come on board to help their fellow citizens.
If you want to make a contribution – even if it is small – directly to Italian hospitals, you can do so here.