Not so long ago, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s charismatic former leader who was ousted in favor of technocrat Mario Monti, held a meeting with a bunch of economists. The big meeting appeared to be part of a Berlusconi comeback plot.
Although it has not been confirmed, among the group of high-powered economists invited for a chat with Silvio were two US Nobel laureates, Gary Becker and Vernon Smith.
At the meeting of minds, Berlusconi was supposed to have run his ideas by the economists to see whether they were feasible.
Despite rumors, nobody really seems to know exactly who turned up at the big meeting with Berlusconi, and just what was discussed remains a total mystery too. Berlusconi party bigwigs are not letting on, and have probably been sworn to secrecy, although even they may not know.
Judging from the silence, what the economists told Silvio about his ideas may not have gone down too well, or else the usually vociferous Berlusconi would have been crowing about it via his TV channels and his friendly newspapers.
Perhaps, when asked for the odd suggestion or two, the esteemed economists told Silvio that Italy really needs to clamp down on corruption and cronyism. That probably would not have gone down too well with Berlusconi who seems to believe that corruption merely a business tool. As for cronyism, Berlusconi’s PdL party, probably would not exist without it, so Silvio would not have been too happy with anything which condemns the way he has run his affairs for decades.
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Another thing the economists might have told Silvio is that the Italy’s market needs to be freed up. Protectionist legislation which keeps Italy’s professionals sitting pretty should be dumped, may have been a tip too. Berlusconi would have gulped and thought about the little laws he passed to keep his ailing Mediaset media empire afloat. Promoting competition is the last thing Berlusconi would want.
Italy’s needs tax cuts, one of the Nobel laureates may have uttered. Berlusconi would have smiled, until one of the Nobel laureates reminded him that before tax cuts could take place, Italy a) needs to crack down hard on tax evasion b) the Boot needs to bring its eye-watering level of public debt down to acceptable levels. Berlusconi’s smile probably melted away rather quickly. His own, alleged, off-shore tax dodges may well have sprung to mind.
Those darned economists may well have scuppered just about all of Silvio Berlusconi’s grand plans.
Of course, all of the above is mere speculation, but the post-meeting silence is somewhat ominous, isn’t it?
Still, there’s time for Berlusconi to surprise Italy, although the charge he faces of sleeping with an underage prostitute still hangs, ominously, over his head. He denies the charge, but the sordid details which will emerge from the forthcoming court case will do no favors for Berlusconi’s already somewhat battered public image.
It also looks as if super Silvio may be a mite short of cash. Times appear to be tough for the deposed king of Italy.
Will he make a comeback? That too, like the attendees at the big meeting, remains a closely guarded secret.