27 FEBRUARY 1948, Page 16

BLACK MARKET IN ROME Snt,—Mr, Geoffrey Godwin's disgust at the

black market in Rome is to be understood, and he rightly points out that it has become an almost essential part of the Roman life, where the official ration scale is entirely insufficient for ordinary requirements. However, by way of comment, it would be well to add that in comparison with this country relatively few commodities are rationed, and thus in effect the " black " market is not so much black as free. After all, there is nothing so very much wrong with the open-air selling of " ties, scarves, toys and kitchen utensils," if Romans prefer to make their purchases in this way. The sale of "cigarettes of the best British and American. brands" on

the stteet tables is admittedly illegal, since tobacco is a Government monopoly and foreign cigarettes are not officially imported. Mr. Godwin would discover, however, that these cigarettes are the clever manufac- ture of racketeers, who have carefully copied the respective cartons and filled them with the contents of " fag-ends," gleaned from the gutter. Begging has been reduced to a fine art—and a lucrative one—but there is no doubt of the distress and a-morality which underlies the glitter of luxury shops and restaurants, the monopoly of the very -rich. The result of this bewildering state of affairs, which must strike any casual visitor, is the extraordinary way in which the Romans have managed to combine their traditional light-heartedness with real dadividual economic vigour, nefarious or otherwise, in an effort to overcome the exorbitant rise in the cost of living, as reflected in the black market—Yours, &c.,