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Italy’s 35 Billion Dollar Question

OK, so it’s not 35 billion dollars, it’s 35 billion Euros. Not exactly a paltry sum, I’m sure you will agree.

Whilst waiting for Di to arrive in Pavia, I picked up a Sunday copy of Italy’s most mischievous left leaning Berlusconi bashing newspaper, La Repubblica.  Sitting on the left hand side of the La Repubblica’s front page was a little question, which, roughly translated equates to: “Who’s seen the 35 Billion which has vanished from the Treasury?”.

Those who keep an eye on the Living Museum will be aware that levels of public debt have been spiralling in Italy, as public spending reaches record levels.  Indeed, the increase in public spending amounts to slightly less than 35 billion Euros, but nobody seems to understand on just what this fortune has been spent.  Most Italians would not mind too much if they could understand where the money has gone.  The trouble is, as La Repubblica points out, that nobody seems to understand how the cash has been spent.  Swiss bank account?  Education system reforms?  Re-fitting the Coliseum in Rome?  Who knows.  The money appears to have evaporated.

This monetary mystery has even got one of Italy’s ex-prime ministers wondering.

Former Prime Minister Prodi is Curious

Even former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, who has gently, and unusually for an Italian politician, faded into the political background in much the same way as ex-British prime ministers usually do, wrote an article in another Italian newspaper, Il Messaggero, on the as good as missing billions.  Prodi cannot fathom out just why such an enormous increase in public spending has taken place.

All the more curious is the fact that Italy has only spent some 3 billion on anti-crisis measures, a sum which equals around 0.2 of Italy’s GDP.  Other less fortunate economies have been spending up to 3 percent of gross national product on anti-credit crisis bailouts.  But not Italy.  Very curious.

Bank of Italy Governor, Mario Draghi Has Suspicions

The La Repubblica article went on to hint that this extraordinary large, and, for the moment lost, sum of dosh, may have ended up in the pockets of Italy’s most infamous criminal organisation, the mafia.  In fact, one Mario Draghi, governor of the Bank of Italy, has been all but intimating as much.  In addressing a parliamentary commission, Draghi warned that mafia infiltration in Italy was reaching new heights.

One imagines that the members of the parliamentary commission nodded wisely, called it a day, and all jumped into their Lambos, Ferrari’s and million dollar Bugatti Veyron’s and roared off to their palatial villas, thanking their lucky stars for the existence of offshore banking.  La Repubblica seems to think that Draghi’s days as Bank of Italy governor are numbered as a result of his making too many insightful observations and asking awkward questions.

Question Marks

Talking of questions, a big question mark still hangs over the amounts of cash one late ex-Italian prime minister who went by the name of Bettino Craxi managed to spirit out of Italian state coffers.  Nobody will probably ever know how much public money he acquired.

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If the 35 billion mentioned by Prodi  has indeed been spirited away, then whoever is behind this clever money management book cooking makes recently imprisoned ponzi scheme fiddler Bernard Madoff look like a rank amateur.  After all he took years to swindle people out of 65 or so billion dollars, whereas Italy’s missing 35 billion has dissappeared in around one single year.

Italy’s 35 Billion Dollar Question remains, for the moment, one big question.

Meanwhile Italy focuses on call-girl scandals and alleged Etruscan tombs in Sardinia.

If Blog from Italy should happen to receive any inordinately generous donations, I’ll let you know – after I have landed in the Cayman Islands!

Sources and further reading:

Chi ha visto i 35 miliardi sperperati dal Tesoro? – “Who’s seen the 35 Billion which has vanished from the Treasury?” – in Italian – La Repubblica, 26 July 2009.

Tornare a investire subito nelle scienze della vita, nelle nuove energie e nella protezione ambientale – Go back to investing in the science of life, renewable energy and environmental protection – in Italian on RomanoProdi.it

Bettino Craxi – Wikipedia – in English

Bernard Madoff – Wikipedia

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