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Monti’s Reforms for Italy Fizzle Out

I have been watching some new reforms unfold in Italy. The trouble is, what is proposed by Italy’s Mario Monti led government rarely seems to be implemented in full.  Will the same happen again?

The reforms introduced by Monti so far all seem to have ended up being watered down so much as to make one wonder whether they were really worth bothering with in the first place.  The recent employment law reforms are but one example.

Another problem which has cropped up a couple of times with regard to Monti’s reforms is that of finance. It looks as if the costs of implementing new legislation have not always been accurately calculated.

While mistakes have been made, it must be kept in mind that the government formed by Mario Monti has been in power for less than a year. Compared to preceding Italian governments, Monti is moving at an incredible velocity. Nothing quite like Monti velocity has been seen in Italy for many a year, if ever. At least Monti is trying to push through much needed reforms.

On the cards at present are proposals designed to cut down on corruption, reorganise and coordinate Italy’s health system and to tackle the every increasing presence of slot machines all over the peninsula.

The ideas being proposed by the Monti government do not sound too bad. Those ideas just do not end up becoming transformed into reality.

Someone appears to have challenged the proposed health system reforms on the grounds that they are not constitutional. Hopefully the hiccup will pass, as the reforms may make Italy’s health system more efficient and more cost effective.

The proposal to make doctors available 24 hours a day is not a bad idea as it would take the strain off Italy’s hospital emergency departments. Whether it will happen remains to be seen though.

Making medical records for Italy’s citizens digital is another interesting proposal, as is the proposal to render the appointment of senior health system managers more public and transparent.  Incidentally, Italy’s health system is riddled with corruption.

Health System Reforms

Then there is, within the same packet as the health system reforms, a proposal for extra taxes on sugary fizzy drinks. This could, potentially, raise around €250 million a year for Italy’s coffers. One report I heard said that the tax may add 3 Eurocents to the price of fizzy drinks in Italy. Most people would not notice such a rise. Spirits are to be taxed more too, or at least that is the proposal.

Indirect taxes which cannot easily be evaded are a good idea for Italy where tax evasion is rife. Or at least this Italy watcher thinks so.

What the Monti government seems to be aiming to do is to generate enough income via indirect, difficult to evade, taxes to permit the reduction of direct tax levels. Indeed, Monti has been hinting at tax cuts.

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But the fizzy drinks tax may not make it though Italy’s parliament which means that Monti’s hinted tax cuts will probably remain no more than hints.

Italy’s Gambling Addiction

Another proposed reform, which may help cut down on slot machine gambling in Italy, and it also part of the list of reforms which includes modifications to Italy’s health system, may not pass either. That would be a pity because the legislation would remove slot machines from coffee bars and other venues situation within a 500 metre radius of schools and thus away from impressionable young minds.

The crisis is probably the reason, but Italy seems to have become gambling mad. Slot machines have sprung up everywhere and there are lots of adverts on television promoting online poker and other gambling systems. The former Berlusconi-led government seemed particularly friendly towards gambling.

It is perhaps no coincidence that also within the health system reforms was a proposal to set up centres to treat Italians who have become gambling addicts.

Organised crime is said to be behind many of Italy’s slot machine and other gaming operations. This is another good reason to do something about what appears to be a growing problem in Italy.

Cracking Down on Corruption, Maybe

Finally, another much needed law which may never end up on Italy’s law books concerns a huge problem in Italy – corruption.

Berlusconi’s party is unhappy with the anti-corruption law proposals. To keep the party happy, they wording of the law may be watered down so much as to render it virtually ineffective.

I can understand the concerns of the Berlusconi party mob in some respects. Under new laws, investigating magistrates would be more or less free to decide what constitutes corruption. There seem to be no proposals for guidelines which could prevent over-zealous magistrates from charging all and sundry with corruption. Then again, giving such power to the magistrates might act as a deterrent and cut levels of corruption in Italy, which may be a deliberate aim on the part of those who drafted the law. But unless the Berlusconi mob likes the new anti-corruption law, they will not vote for it. In this case, it will be corruption as usual. Back to square one.

What form the eventual health system and anti-corruption reforms will actually take is anyone’s guess, as is whether the reforms will reform anything at all.

Italy’s employment law reforms do not look as if they will make much of a difference because they were watered down.

An attempt to end the vice-like grip lawyers, notaries and other professionals have on their corners of the market in Italy did not have much, if any, effect.

Will the current round of reforms be more cases of everything changes so everything stays the same, as so often seems to be the case in Italy? Maybe, maybe not. We shall see.

If the current reforms are not watered down in some way or other, it will be a surprise for this Italy watcher.

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