Italy PM calls on businesses to fund Pompeii repairs

Heavy rain led to the collapse of walls, as Alan Johnston reports

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Italy's new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has called on business people to fund repairs to the ancient city of Pompeii, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Mr Renzi made the plea after heavy rainfall caused flooding there, damaging walls and buildings.

The site, where volcanic ash smothered a Roman city in AD79, has suffered slow degradation for many years.

On Tuesday, Italy's culture minister said he would unblock 2m euros ($2.8m) "to get the machine working".

Priority will also be given to work to reduce the risk of flooding in unexcavated areas.

'Ideological refusal'

Start Quote

If the private sector can keep the wall standing upright, why not allow it to?”

End Quote Matteo Renzi Italian Prime Minister

Mr Renzi made the request for funding at a news conference on Wednesday.

"Italy is the land of culture, and so I challenge entrepreneurs: What are you waiting for?" he said.

"The ideological refusal to permit the private sector to intervene - as if only the public sector could guarantee the guardianship of heritage - must end."

"If the private sector can keep the wall standing upright, why not allow it to?" he asked.

Aged 39, Matteo Renzi became Italy's youngest prime minister last month.

He has vowed to bring "radical and immediate change" to Italy's struggling economy.

Neglected

The Italian government has already called upon the private sector to help restore other ancient monuments, including the Colosseum in Rome and the Trevi fountain.

Damaged wall in Pompeii (3 March 2014) The wall of an ancient shop also collapsed over the weekend

Italy's culture budget has suffered from cutbacks in recent years, leading the United Nations and European Union to issue warnings about the state of the country's historical sites.

The ancient city of Pompeii one of the world's greatest archaeological treasures. Every year, some 2.5m tourists visit the site, near the southern city of Naples.

Despite the money they generate, there have been allegations that Pompeii - designated a World Heritage site by the UN cultural organisation, Unesco - has been neglected and underfunded.

Last year, the 105m-euro ($145m) "Great Pompeii" rehabilitation project was launched, with the EU contributing 41.8m euros. However, one Italian newspaper said on Tuesday that only 588,000 euros had been spent.

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