As usual, there is plenty going on in Italy at the moment. This is just a brief summary of some of the stories which have caught my little eye over the last couple of weeks or so.
The recent earthquake down in the Abruzzo region of Italy is still generating a lot of media attention, and most of Italy’s big name politicians are getting in on the act. Just last night, there was Prime Minister Berlusconi, along with Finance Minister Tremonti, and Education Minister Gelmini all at the same press conference outlining how Italy’s government plans to sort out the chaos down in the quake hit zone.
The Italian government is talking of around a reconstruction budget of some 8 billion Euros, although it is not too clear where all the cash will come from. Berlusconi has stated that extra taxes will not be used to gather funds, but he may well do an about turn on this once he realises just how little cash there is in government coffers, and remembers that Italy has a huge level of public debt.
One also wonders what will happen to the planned reforms to Italy’s education system seeing as funding is likely to be channelled to Abruzzo. Then again, and as RAI 3’s excellent investigative documentary program Report highlighted last Sunday, a little clever reorganisation could save the Italian education system a lot of money. Some of the craziness in Italy’s education system is beyond belief.
Many Italian schools obtain funding for ‘projects’ from the European Community. All well and good, until you hear that monies are being appropriated, or rather, spirited away.
Down in Benevento, for example, there is an institute which trains young people who want to enter the hotel trade. This school, for that is to all intents and purposes what it is, receives around 300 to 400 thousand Euros in European Community funding.
The enterprising head of this institute appears to have used European tax payers money to set up an informal restaurant which charges people money to eat. The ’employees’ of this ‘restaurant’ are the school’s pupils, who often work until one in the night. Related courses, for that is what the restaurant masquerades as, were taught by the ex-mother in law of the school’s head teacher. The head also acts as a form of managing director who can act autonomously.
Phantom courses abound in Italy, and all receive generous funding. Such funding, when not used to set up restaurants on the side that is, sometimes ends up in the headmaster’s bank account! One crafty headmaster was actually caught doing this, but nothing was done. It turned out that one of the inspectors which uncovered the fiddle just happened to be in a business relationship with the headmaster concerned. Ah, the Italian way.
Other stories of collapsing schools, inept management, and disappearing funds abound.
And schools which are doing very well, such as the technology focused Giulio Natta high school in Rivoli, near Turin, receive zero recognition. Not all of Italy’s schools are being run by dishonest head masters and mistresses.
Education Minister Gelmini was interviewed on the Report special which examined Italy’s chaotic education system, and she said, effectively, ‘well, I’ve only had the job for six months’. Very telling. Without too much digging, it would be possible to establish that the average tenure of all Italian ministers since the second world war has been around six months! This explains why things never seem to get much better in Italy.
Of course, the introduction of the US style Class Action could permit dissatisfied Italian citizens to take their political masters to court. Except Italy’s politicians are doing all thay can to render the Italian version of the class action virtually useless.
Source: Report transcript – in Italian.
No Class Action
After the Parmalat and Ciro scandals, as a result of which many small investors lost thousands, the possibility of introducing American style class actions into Italy’s legal system was discussed, and pushed by Italian consumer groups. A great idea.
Such a system would encourage corporate responsibility, and take the strain off Italy’s crumbling legal system. Instead of 1000 claimants instructing 1000 lawyers and creating 1000 court cases, 1000 people would instruct one law firm, and one case would be heard. Real efficiency.
Well, legislation designed to introduce such actions was drafted, and then amended. The latest changes to this legislation, which appear to have been instigated by Italy’s employers federation, Confindustria, have rendered the new law virtually useless. Class Actions, if this legislation is passed, will be possible on paper, but impossible in practice.
Someone, somewhere has obviously considered the consequences of the introduction of such legislation and came away terrified. Probably more than a few ‘someones’ including, no doubt, plenty of Italy’s well heeled politicians.
Italy’s legal system probably groaned at this news. It is already under great strain, and the impression is that people are at work to ensure that it remains as inefficient as possible. In so doing convicted members of mafia organisations have been able to leave their prison cells.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
Source: Report transcript – in Italian.
Mafia Convicts Sent Home
Down in Bari 21 persons convicted of mafia type association have been sent home. Why? Apparently the judge in the case did not manage to complete the documentary formalities in time after trials ended in January 2008.
Berlusconi’s mob is accusing the Italian legal system of gross inefficiency. While this may be the case, one would have thought that government departments would have kept an eye on things and stepped in before these people were allowed back onto Italy’s streets. Many will probably disappear too.
Could someone not have offered to lend the judges a helping hand? Obviously not. This assumes, of course, that the judge in question had requested assistance. Just what where the judge’s superiours doing?
Lots of buck passing will be going on behind the scenes.
Source: Voce Bari – Bari: mafiosi in liberta’ – in Italian.
More Mafia News
A police operation which took place in Italy this week netted some 39 ‘ndrangheta mafia miscreants.
Italy’s antimafia organisations are saying that levels of mafia related violence have returned to same levels as they were 15 years ago. This indicates that the mafia situation in Italy is still a great problem.
Meanwhile, up here in Milan, the mafia is doing all it can to become involved in construction works relating to Milan’s 2015 Expo.
If you come to this event in 2015, and hear of roofs collapsing on the heads of visitors, the reason for this will most probably be mafia style construction which tends to employ substandard materials. It is rumoured that the mafia controls much of Italy’s cement production.
Source: DNews newspaper, page 6, 24 April 2009.
Talking of Milan
Mayor Moratti of Milan has been coming under fire recently for allegedly employing too many over paid consultants. Italy’s press have been, oddly, ignoring this. Well, it is not at all strange really, Moratti has some very powerful friends, and her hubby is not short of a bob or two either.
Source, and further reading, in Italian: nuovasocieta.it – La condanna della Moratti
Last but by no means least, we have the:
In what might be an attempt by Berlusconi to diminish the profits of arch rival Sky owner Rupert Murdoch, a new tax on pornography was introduced this week in Italy. This new tax will potentially add 25% to the cost of a range of sex products and services.
The sex industry in Italy is doing great business, so this porn tax will likely swell government coffers. Apparently every evening it is estimated that around 200,000 Italians buy an adult film. Wow! That adds up to 73 million sex films sold every year. This either indicates that Italians have an above average sex drive, or that above average levels of sexual frustration exist in Italy!
On the basis of the demand for pornographic materials in Italy, one could pose the question: Do Italian women like sex? The answer, on the basis that the sex industry is so buoyant here, is probably no, unless, of course, they are being paid for it.
Source: Progress Online: Fisco: ecco la porno-tax – in Italian.
See also: Murdoch’s Sky Italy versus The Berlusconi’s Mediaset – in English, on Blog from Italy.