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The pizzo

If you did not know, and I’m willing to bet you did not, a ‘pizzo’ is a payment to Sicilian gentlemen in exchange for their ‘protection’.

You could view it as being a type of insurance policy, in that if you do pay up, your shop/business will not end up looking rather charred and you will stand a better chance of living to a ripe old age. Yes, I am talking about one of Italy’s infamous institutions.

Italy’s confederation of industry does not agree with the payment of this, er, fee, which, as you might expect, reduces its members’ profitability somewhat. And this Italian industry association wishes to put an end to the payment of the pizzo, and has decided to exclude those who make this payment from its membership.

I’m not sure just how Confindustria, as the organisation is known, will go about finding out who pays (although it is well known that most Sicilian businesses do pay) and proving that such payments are made. It’s a bit like the question on the American visa application form ‘Are you a terrorist?’; nobody in his or her right mind is likely to openly admit to paying. And its not as if this payment is likely to be recorded in company accounts.

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Having said the above, a few brave souls have refused to be insured and, alas, have sometimes faced dire consequences. While it is clear what Confindustria is doing and why, there may be better ways to achieve such ends. Ways that will not, literally, endanger its members. Although one suspects that Confindustria is acting almost out of frustration, and is possibly hoping to provoke those who should be doing something about the situation into more concrete action. Or possibly the organisation is hoping that if enough people refuse to pay, the Sicilian insurers might go away…..

Unsurprisingly the Italian news is full of this proposal and, as an accompaniment, a few stories regarding the unfortunate ends met by those who have not paid up are flanking stories about the idea.

I suspect that after having had a go, Confindustria will quietly back down and nothing will change. Still, at least they are having a go and the arrest of a senior crime boss recently even seems to have given the Sicilian branch of Confindustria some slight hope of achieving something.

Oh, and don’t get your pizzos confused with your tangentis. ‘Tangenti’ is Italian for ‘bribes’, and they are another story entirely.

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