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Islands in the stream – Italian bureaucracy

Somewhere out on the WWW I read about an Italian guy who had had a child, but wanted to avoid getting involved in all the bureaucracy which follows. After my experiences of Italian bureaucracy, I can relate to his feelings.

Italian bureaucracy seems to operate on an Islands in the stream principle, meaning that the only way for one island to know what is happening on another is for one of the island’s residents to hop on a boat and go and tell someone, otherwise the twain shall never meet.

This is what I had to do after our son was born:

  • Sign a document in which I ‘recognised’ or rather acknowledged that the child was actually mine – this is optional, although I’m not sure what the consequences of not acknowledging my son’s existence would have been.
  • Next, I had to wander over to the tax offices to get hold of the famous, if you are Italian, codice fiscale, if you are English this is something like the national insurance number. This took two mornings because I arrived too late one day, which was when I discovered that the offices only opened to the public in the mornings. The queues were horrendous.
  • Having finally got the magic number, I could then enroll my son in the health system and choose a baby doctor close to our house. This again took the best part of an afternoon.
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You would think some bright spark, not of island mentality, would think up a way of automating this straightforward process, I mean, we have things like computers and networks now, or so I believe.   No, I’m not talking about 20 years ago, but only 3 and a half years ago.

The island on which the hospital is located is unable to communicate with the tax authorities island and neither of them are able to contact the island upon which the health service is located.

Surely, you would think that a sort of ‘chain reaction’ would take place, all automatically triggered by the ‘acknowledgement’ of a new birth. The hospital would advise the tax people, who would tell the health people and you would receive a nice little letter with the newborn’s codice fiscale, health system enrolment and, even, a list of paediatricians, with vacancies, near to where you reside. It would be so simple, so efficient, but oh so un-Italian.

As I have written on countless occasions, Italy is synonymous with complexity, most of it needless. One day I guess things may change, but nothing will happen in any logical order, after all, that would be too simple for this complex country. I still love it though.

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