Millions of citizens in Lombardy and Veneto, two of Italy's wealthy northern regions, have voted to take more control over their own economic affairs, immigration and education systems.

Italy's twin referendums come on the back of the vote on Catalonia's secession from Spain.

According to officials, nearly 5.5 million people in the Lombardy and Veneto regions headed to the polls to have their say in the non-binding referendum.

The referendum was organised by the Northern League political party, which wants to cut the gap between taxes sent to Rome and the value of state services they get in return. Lombardy and Veneto account for 30 percent of Italy's GDP and many taxpayers there resent subsiding the relatively poor south of Italy.

More than 95 percent voted "yes" for greater autonomy in both regions, but unlike Catalonia, they are not asking for independence, yet.

An approval of the parliament will be now required to allow regional autonomy.

The Northern League, which has long been a mouthpiece for greater autonomy for the northern parts of Italy, certainly sees these votes as an opportunity to expand their influence.

Russell Jones, economist & partner, Llewellyn Consulting

"The northern part of the country's economy is responsible for about 30 percent of GDP, and the states that held the referendum feel they're not getting their fair share of influence and tax revenues. So, I think there's a sense this is economic. The Northern League, which has long been a mouthpiece for greater autonomy for the northern parts of Italy, certainly sees these votes as an opportunity to expand their influence," explains Russell Jones, an economist and partner at Llewellyn Consulting in London.

On the economic effect of the Lombardy-Veneto referendum, Jones says, "right now what we're seeing is the Italian economy is doing quite well ... but this is a reminder that - both in Italy and in Europe - populist pressures, pressures for regionalism still remain pretty strong beneath the surface."

While he doesn't believe this poses a danger to national unity in the short term, "there's a fear that this could be the thin end of a wedge, and over the course of the next few years, you could see this development gather momentum."

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

China under Xi Jinping: President Xi Jinping is officially the most powerful leader China has had in more than 40 years. The ruling Communist Party voted to add Jinping's name and ideology to the Constitution, putting him on the same level as the country's founder, Mao Zedong. It also suggests Xi will influence policy, including fiscal policy, in China for decades to come. Andrew Thomas reports from Liangjiahe in central China.

Alex Wolf, senior emerging markets economist with UK-based Standard Life Investments, in Hong Kong offers his take on China's debt and the possibility of financial reform.

US stock markets: US stock prices have more than tripled since 2009, but many investors are wondering if the current upbeat sentiment can last. There are political uncertainty and warnings of fiscal tightening by central banks, including the Federal Reserve. Kristen Saloomey reports from New York.

Jan Lambregts, global head of financial markets research at Rabobank looks at US President Donald Trump's tax policy and confidence in the country's markets. 

Source: Al Jazeera