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Super-Commission to Combat Corruption in Italy

Corruption Can Kill

At long last it seems as though Italy is doing something to eliminate corruption.  A super-commission is to be set up to fight corruption, or will be, if the proposal ever makes it through Italy’s perpetually bickering parliament.

Corruption, which costs Italy an estimated €60 billion a year, has been holding back economic growth for decades.  Foreign investors shy away from Italy because of the additional costs corruption adds to business development projects.

Many Italians tend to believe that their political masters are highly corrupt, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest these suspicious Italians are right.  Investigations into corruption related cases are in progress in Italy now.  One of the biggest cases may well lead to the closure of the huge ILVA steelworks in Taranto in Italy’s south.  If this happens, tens of thousands of Italians are likely to suffer either directly or indirectly.

Anti-corrutpion laws, aside from helping Italy’s economy to grow, may also help restore Italian’s faith in their political leaders.  This faith is at rock-bottom levels.

Italy’s corruption issue often means it is not possible to select competent contractors for all manner of projects because “friendly”, though not always efficient businesses are awarded contracts simply because they paid someone, quite possibly a politician at either local or national levels, a large sum of money, or offered a “gift”.

In one case, after a minor earthquake, the roof of a school in Molise collapsed on the heads of pupils, killing some of them.  Sub-standard workmanship was to blame – a classic case of “friendly” though incompetent contractors being selected, probably because bribes were paid.

Much the same thing occurred during the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, alas, when poorly constructed student dorms collapsed killing a number of young people.

The proposed super commission will be charged with nipping corruption in the bud and this may make a difference, and save a few lives.

Two Other Key Areas Require Attention

In addition to sorting out its corruption issue, Italy needs to implement reforms in two other key areas:

  • Italy’s court system
  • Italy’s labour laws
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Italy will attract investors if it works to sort out its labour laws and its court system as well.

Italy’s labour laws have been partially reformed, but the reforms have not gone far enough.  It was hard, and costly, to sack poorly performing workers prior to the current labour law reforms.  Unfortunately, not much appears to have changed after the reforms.  Italy’s businesses have not started mass recruitment drives, partly due to the economic crisis and partly because the labour law reforms did not go far enough.

In Italy, employees require protection from unscrupulous bosses and employers require some from of protection from mis-behaving employees.  Presently, employees receive too much protection and this makes Italy’s employers highly reluctant to take people on.

The court system and labour law issues are related. Speeding up the handling of labour law disputes will encourage employers to take on more employees, as they will be safe in the knowledge that they can be rid of unreliable workers, and can replace them more easily.

Painfully Slow Legal System

Complicating matters further is the issue of Italy’s very slow, and highly unpredictable, legal system.

It takes many years for cases to filter through Italy’s court system.  Not only does Italy’s legal system move very slowly, it is also extremely costly, so many do all they can to avoid legal tangles.  Part of these avoidance maneuvers include hiring workers.  What Italy really needs is a fast-track employment law court system.

A faster moving court system would also mean countering corruption would be easier.  Moreover, with a court system which functions, other disputes could be resolved more quickly and more cost effectively too.  This too would help make Italy more appetizing for investors.

A Real Crack Down?

If Italy does really crack down on corruption and not simply ‘go through the motions’, as often seems to be the case, it will become more attractive to foreign investors.

Stamping out corruption may also save a few innocent lives.  If only Italy had tried before.

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