Economy / Politics

Is Monti’s agenda too Italian ?

stereotypical Italian

As reported previously, Italian prime minister Mario Monti has published his political agenda.

It is resumed in a 25-pages document, whose main points are the following:

1) enhance European integration and fight resurgent nationalism;

2)  more growth-oriented European policies;

3) strictly abide to European rules, budget rules in particular;

4) revamp Italian international relations;

5) put the State budget back in order;

6) lower taxes;

7) cut State expenditures;

8) reform the Civil Service;

9) liberalize and deregulate;

10) revamp Italian industry;

11) strengthen the Italian position on the international markets;

12) strengthen the instruction, research and vocational training system;

13) exploit digital technologies better;

14) encourage the green economy;

15) protect the agricultural sector;

16) protect the Italian cultural heritage using also private funds;

17) reform the labor market;

18) encourage enterprise-level collective bargaining;

19) increase juvenile occupation but also protect elderly workers;

20) advance the women’s condition;

21) reform the welfare state;

22) introduce the minimum revenue guarantee;

23) enhance social mobility and fight patronage;

24) reform the Constitution;

25) ruthlessly fight corruption and tax avoidance;

26) fight white-collar crime and organized crime.

Almost everybody would agree with these points, of course. At most, one could notice that it is not clearly stated how they are going to be achieved. Also there is risk of imposing more heavy sacrifices on the Italian people without really eradicating the listed problems, many of which have very deep cultural and historical roots.

There is an even more crucial flaw in Mr. Monti’s strategy, however: treating a worldwide crisis like an Italian one.

Nearly all the point listed are about distinctly Italian problems. Budget laxity, high taxation, high public expenditures, an inefficient Civil Service, a rigid regulation of economy, the decline of the school and university sector, a low exploitation of digital technologies, the difficulty in preserving a huge cultural heritage, a supposedly rigid labor market, the mechanisms of collective bargaining, a slowness in advancing the women’s condition, a too profuse welfare state, the lack of a minimum revenue guarantee, the scarce social mobility and the widespread patronage, corruption and tax avoidance, the growing organized crime… many foreign countries don’t have such problems or have solved them, yet no one was spared by the crisis, not even emerging countries.

Of course, countries with their own problems, like Greece or Spain, were worst hit by the crisis. But not even this is entirely true. Ireland and Iceland are deemed efficient countries, yet they collapsed under the crisis, which in turn did not originate in the lax Mediterranean but in the puritan United States. Therefore, there is the possibility that a Government headed by Mr. Monti would waste many energies without targeting the core causes of the crisis, which are probably to be found in financial deregulation and trans-border tax avoidance allowed by tax havens.

Of course, these are mammoth problems which could not find a quick solution, especially by means of a unilateral initiative by the Italian Government. However, only the political will to tackle them in the long term could morally justify the massive sacrifices which are being required to the Italian people.

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