Italian Politicians Are Experts, Except They Are not

Italy - the land of expert Italian politicians

Maybe the time has come for Italy to get rid of its expert politicians. After all, the track record of these self-proclaimed expert Italian politicians is not exactly brilliant. Far from it, as you will soon discover.

Want examples? No problem, there are plenty. Note that the Italian politicians responsible for this mess sit on both sides of Italy’s left and right leaning political spectrum even if some have been known to changes sides more than once. The politicians concerned have also been languishing in Italy’s parliament for rather too long. Many exceeded their shelf lives a decade or so ago. On to the list (which is growing thanks to the assistance of a certain Aldo).

After reading this, rather long, list of failures, “expert” is probably the last word that will spring to mind:

  • Italy’s national debt in May 2016 was €2,242 billion and is still growing. Italy’s capital Rome is also mired in billions of debt.
  • Italy’s 2016 GDP is projected to grow by an anaemic 0.9% and may even struggle to hit that.
  • Nearly 5 million Italians live in a state of abject poverty – nearly 8% of Italy’s population of 60 million. 1.6 million families are facing exceptional levels of economic hardship. Not Italy’s politicians though – most earn exceptionally handsome wages. Maybe “earn” is not the right word.
  • Italy’s unemployment rate is 11.5% and not really falling despite claims it would. Youth unemployment in Italy is still well over 40%.
  • The productivity of Italy’s manufacturing base has fallen 25%.
  • Time to export in Italy was 20 days in 2005. It was still 19 days in 2015. Italy should thrive on exports but can’t. France’s time to export is 9 days, and so is Germany’s. Spain’s is 10 and the USA’s time to export is a mere 6 days.
  • Many hundreds of thousands of young well qualified Italians have jumped ship for nations which offer them greater opportunities such as the United Kingdom – even if the Brexit may change this.
  • Italy’s banking system is in such a mess it may cause problems for the whole Eurozone – US Bank J P Morgan is helping Italy’s “expert” politicos find a solution to the mess they contributed to. What? No in-house experts, Italy?
  • Those consummate expert Italian politicians apparently did not notice that Italy’s banks were selling extremely risky bonds to unsophisticated Italian investors. It was a kind of sneaky bail-in. Some of these bond sales were tied to applications to for loans and other finance. No bonds, no loan, sorry. How come nothing was done to prevent this?
  • Press freedom in Italy is at a record low level. Italy dropped 4 places from 73 in 2015 to hit 77 in the Reporters Without Borders 2016 ranking.
  • Italy’s tax burden is a record 43.5% and climbing. The average Italian company pays 68% annually after rates on profits and labor. Tax evasion is still at record levels and Italy’s government of “experts” is failing to do much about this evergreen Italian problem.
  • Italy’s ruling classes are so riddled with corruption, cronyism, and links to organised criminals that they have just about lost all credibility. So corrupt are Italy’s ruling classes that they are no longer ashamed of committing crimes not that Italy’s justice system acts as much of a deterrent. It is also exceedingly difficult to arrest corrupt parliamentarians in Italy.
  • Italy’s expert politicians failed to note that the ‘ndrangheta was gaining, and has now gained, a firm foothold in Italy’s north. Or maybe someone in Italy’s expert government at the time did note this and was happy to let the expansion of organised crime continue.
  • A bankruptcy system which takes 7.8 years to crawl to a conclusion. The European average is 2 years. This is one of the reasons why saving Italy’s banks is proving so difficult.
  • A prime minister who promised to sort Italy out in 100 days and then claimed Italy’s economy would recover with a bang. Neither happened.
  • Public works schemes in Italy tend to be unnecessary, routinely go over budget and cost many times more than they should often because certain people take very generous cuts. Example: high speed rail lines in Italy cost an average of €61 billion a kilometer. In France, Japan and Spain, the cost is around €10 billion per kilometer.
  • On the tourism promotion front, the record of Italy’s expert politicians is not too hot. According to Worldbank data, between 2015 and 2015, the number of tourists visiting Italy went up from 31 million to 48.6 million. That’s 17.6 million increase is not too bad until one sees the figures for Germany which upped tourism numbers from 14.8 million to 33.9 million – a 222% increase. France in the same period increased tourism numbers from an already healthy 60 million to 84 million. There’s so much to see in Italy that the nation should be attracting at least as many tourists as France was in 2005. Time for a little expert intervention, don’t you think? And a well managed tourism industry could give Italy’s exports a boost too.

Is there any alternative to “expert” Italian politicians?

Yes, and it’s called the 5 Star Movement. No, the 5 Star Movement is not perfect but it is learning and wants to cut the cancer that is corruption and cronyism out of Italian politics. It also wants to engage true experts to run Italy not those who simply claim they are gurus.

The Rome Test

As you may know, the Five Star Movement has won control of Rome’s City Hall. Italy’s capital is beset with problems and up to its eyeballs in debt too – the consequence of “expert” management. Now, if Virginia Raggi, the new Mayor of Rome, and her team can sort out Rome, then this may well indicate the Five Star Movement can manage Italy rather well too. Ms Raggi will face many obstacles from those who need her to fail so the road ahead will not be at all easy.

One is going to keep a close eye on the recently elected Ms Raggi and how she gets on in her attempts to remove the rot from Rome.

Italian Politicians Experts in Irony?

One of the expert Italian Politicans PM Matteo Renzi
One of the expert Italian Politicans PM Matteo Renzi

Ironically, during local elections, certain Italian politicians claimed 5 Star Movement candidates should be ignored because they are inexpert. Why is this ironic? Because Italy’s Minister of Public Administration and Simplification, Marianna Madia has zero political or administrative experience, nor does Maria Elena Boschi, the Minister for Constitutional Reforms and Relations and, to cap it all, Italy’s current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had run nothing larger than the prosperous Italian tourism honeypot Florence before talking himself into power. What a bunch of experts.

In addition to these “gurus” is Pier Carlo Padoan, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finances, who keeps on insisting Italy’s banks are solid.

Today, 30% of Italians now realise that the 5 Star Movement presents an alternative to the “experts” even if both Italy’s establishment politicians do not and nor do European mandarins.

Maybe it’s (past) time to oust the current “expert” Italian politicians and replace them with something new? This Italy watcher thinks so and the list above does seem to suggest Italy is in desperate need of genuine experts.

Italy has enormous potential, if only it could realise it.

My glass of excellent Italian wine remains half full, for now.

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Please note that some links go to articles written in Italian.

Photo of Matteo Renzi by Roberto Vicario

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