Rome, May 23 - Weakness in Italy's northern industrial base is a strong indicator of how poorly the national economy is faring, the head of Confindustria, Italy's powerful industrial confederation, said Thursday. "The north is on the brink of an abyss....that would drag our country back a half-century," Giorgio Squinzi said during the annual meeting of his organization. That weakness developing in what has traditionally been the country's economic and industrial base is a clear sign that the government of Premier Enrico Letta must develop strong policies to boost growth, said Squinzi. Italy is now stuck in its longest recession on record with seven straight quarterly drops in gross domestic product (GDP) amid rising costs and unemployment. Last week, national statistics agency Istat reported that GDP fell 0.5% in the first three months of 2013.