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Corruption Begins in the Cradle in Italy

At this time last year, Italy’s judiciary issued a warning.  The judges stated that there were signs that levels of corruption, a problem which has long dogged Italy, were once again upon the increase.

Sadly, this prediction, which I wrote about on Italy Chronicles last year, has become reality.  In 2009, incidences of corruption in Italy rose by a staggering 229% over 2008 levels.

Mario Ristuccia, the General Prosecutor of Italy’s Corta dei Conti, or ‘State Auditors’ Court’, warned that such high levels of corruption might put off those considering investing in Italy.

A Gift
A small gift

It’s a worrying situation, but it does appear as though corruption is pretty much endemic in Italy.  Recently, corruption scandals surrounding G8 construction works, and the earthquake rebuilding works in Abruzzo have rocked Italy.  Fresh stories of skulduggery seem to reach Italy’s press virtually daily.

As has been said before, Italy’s national sport is not football, but tax evasion, well it’s starting to look as though the beautiful game may be pushed into second place by another Italian ‘pastime’.

Here is a semi tongue in cheek look at why corruption levels are likely to remain high in Italy, and what might have started the ball rolling.  Downhill.

Ten Reasons Why Corruption Exists in Italy

1. It gets very hot. It’s true, in summer Italy becomes a sauna.  Nobody can be bothered to do much, especially not filling in forms or much that passes for work.  The country slows down.  How can one help things move forward once more?  Easy.  Globs of money can act as a suitable lubricant and can help speed things up during the torrid heat of Italy’s summers.

As a matter of interest, the hotter it gets in Italy; read the further south you go; the higher the number of incidences of corruption tend to be.

2. Italy is horribly bureaucratic.  Myriads of silly little laws, rules and regulations can make the simplest of tasks take ages in Italy.  The heat does not help either.  All it takes is one swift payment to cut through years of red tape.

3. Italy is cliquey.  Groups of businessmen band together and make it difficult for others to do anything without ‘approval’.  How can such approval be obtained?  Simple.  Hand over a few suitcase-loads of cash.  Thumbs up guaranteed.

4. Italians need help from their friends.  It’s easy to see why.  Just read reasons 1 to 3 above.  Sons and daughters can be given a leg up by ‘friends’.  Assistance from such ‘friends’ becomes swift and much more generous upon the promise of donations and gifts.  Degrees and jobs are often obtained in this way (Perhaps the Royal Family in Britain could possibly be accused of using its influence to lubricate access into top flight universities such as Oxford and Cambridge? – This is not an entirely Italian phenomenon.).

A big gift
A big gift

5. It starts in the cradle.  ‘Facciamo un patto’ – ‘Let’s make a deal’ – is not a phrase which comes from some bugged telephone conversation which took place between two devious Italian businessmen.  No, it’s a phrase my Italian other half often uses to persuade our little son to do something.  For our son, the bribe is no more than some toy or gift, but one can see how such ‘toys’ and ‘gifts’ might become larger and larger until they become life-size.

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Of course, this reason could have its origins in number 1.  Heat and motherhood do not good bedfellows make.

6. Nothing really changes.  Possibly related to the heat, and the complexity, is the fact that change in Italy is a slow process.  How do we accelerate matters?  Dangle a carrot.

7. Everybody is at it.  Some businessmen may well argue, ‘Well, if I don’t, he will, and I will lose out’.  Preemptive bribe time.

8. Recipients encourage it.  Pay levels in Italy can be a little on the low side, especially in the public sector.  Wife wants a fur coat, son wants an new car, daughter wants bigger boobs, and recipient does not have enough money to keep everybody satisfied.  Time for the classic words, ‘Well, perhaps we could come to some arrangement.’  The backhander ball starts rolling.

9. Italian banks won’t give anybody overdrafts or loans.  Someone needs money, someone else wants something doing, and offers money to get it done.  Instant bank balance improvement, and no repayments!  Related to 8 above.

10.  Nobody pays up on time.  Those 30, 60, and 90 day settlement periods all too often become 300, 600, and 900 days in Italy.  In the meantime one has got to live, pay for cosmetic surgery, and eat.  If someone comes along and makes you an offer you cannot refuse which will help you sort out your dreadful cashflow, you are unlikely to say no.

And so it goes on.  One big vicious circle.

Other suggestions, or denials, greatly welcomed.  And yes, I am aware that Italy is not the only corrupt place on the planet, just in case you were wondering.

For the record, someone once tried to offer me a bribe.  I told my boss.  Funny, I often wondered how he managed to afford that Ferrari… 😉

Italy Chronicles February 16 2009: Italian News Roundup

Reuters Italia February 17 2010: Corte Conti: corruzione in netto aumento nel 2009 State Auditors’ Department: net increase in corruption in 2009 – in Italian

Big gift Photograph – Knatterboot by Kolling

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