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Italy overtakes UK as British pound declines

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Even working here in Europe, I have no idea how Italy does it. It's always been a nightmare market for my work due to the slow pace of change but somehow it's right up there with the large economies of the world. Business friends down there always swear that it's terrible as well but perhaps it's the mystery that makes it such a great place. Italy defies all logic.

And now guess what? They've done it again. Just as most of us thought the economic crisis could get no worse, La Stampa yesterday declared: "Italy beats England [sic] with the euro."

Such has been the depreciation of the pound, the paper said, that Britain's gross domestic product was now worth less than Italy's. Applying Wednesday's exchange rate to the two countries' output last year, La Stampa calculated that Italy's was 0.7% higher.

And not only that. "For some weeks we have been individually richer on average," the paper said. The standard measure of prosperity is GDP per head, and on that count Italians were also in front, by almost €900 (£855) a year.

However sobering for Britons, the latest arithmetic should have the bittersweet taste of revenge for Italy, a country whose sorpasso was quickly reversed and which, three years ago, was branded "the real sick man of Europe" by the Economist because of its economic languor. Yet Italians yesterday were not so much toasting their achievement as scratching their heads.

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