Italian government encourages citizens to buy bonds

The main entrance of the stock exchange palace in Milan pictured on August 5, 2011.

Steve Chiotakis: Interest rates for Italian debt rose again today, to the point at which investors start thinking a country can't pay the stuff back. So the Italian government's designated today as "Bond Day," and asking everyday Italians to pitch in.

The BBC's Alan Johnston reports now from Rome.


Alan Johnston: The idea for a "Bond Day" came from a banker in Tuscany named Giuliano Melani. He took out a full page newspaper ad to issue a personal appeal, asking patriotic Italians to buy bonds to help pay for the national debt.

Think Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: I ask you to demonstrate. To demonstrate again your faith in America by joining me in investing in the new defense savings bonds and staffs. And I know you will help.

This new initiative in Italy is backed by major Italian banks and the Milan Stock Exchange. They've agreed to waive trading fees on bond purchases made by Italians today. Ordinary Italians, however, may be reluctant to dig into their own pockets amid cuts to the budget and social programs.

But one potential buyer, Marco Massoni, says it's time to pitch in, not panic. Here he is speaking at a stock exchange earlier today.

Marco Massoni: The crisis is quite obvious. In Italy and internationally. But Italy is a country with enough resources to make it through. We would need a little bit more courage.

Even so, raising enough money to tackle the towering debt is a huge problem for Italy. Even if every day Italians pitch in to bail themselves out.

In Rome, I'm the BBC's Alan Johnston for Marketplace.

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