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Waiting for Monti

Italy Needs Mario Monti

What is Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Monti cooking up?  Nobody in Italy really knows and the country is waiting with baited breath for what may well be Italy’s austerity package mark four.  The rumour is that the latest episode will raise something like €20 billion for Italy’s struggling state.

Only Angela Merkel and, probably, French President Sarkozy know what Monti is brewing up.  Merkel has given her thumbs up, but to what nobody knows.  Not even Berlusconi party secretary and possible successor to the tanned man himself Angelino Alfano knows the details of Monti’s measures.  Whether this is true is anyone’s guess, but Alfano was not letting on when he appeared on Italian political chat show Ballarò yesterday evening.

Italy is Counting on Mario Monti
Italy is Counting on Mario Monti

One this very blog I summarized what Monti is reported to be up to in my What will Mario Monti do? post, but it’s all mere speculation.

Ousting Silvio Berlusconi did not prove to be the magic bullet some expected and Italy’s stock market is still yo-yoing nervously.  Interest rate levels on Italy’s sovereign debt have not fallen back into safe territory either.  Indeed, things have got even worse and banks throughout the Euro zone and beyond are now girding their loins in preparation for a total collapse of the Euro scenario.  This situation is as gloomy as the weather in Milan in winter.

Now that Monti has managed to form a complete new government using the best technical brains from all sides of Italy’s political spectrum, perhaps some of the gloom will be replaced by rays of sunlight when the next round of austerity measures sees the light of day.  This will happen on the 5th of December and may signal good tidings on the run up to Christmas or it may thoroughly dampen Christmas spirits in Italy.  Monti’s measures should, it is sincerely hoped, include a few ways to end Italy’s economy’s stagnancy.  We shall see.

Monti is Buzzing

Monti certainly has been a busy, if secretive, little bee.

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Aside from buzzing busily around Rome wrapping up the details of his new government – which does not contain any of Berlusconi’s choices of ministers, incidentally.  Not only has Monti been furiously buzzing around Italy, he’s also been flying off to court the rest of Europe in what looks be a concerted effort to restore confidence in the Berlusconi battered peninsula’s future.

Italy – Growth or Else

Growth seems to be the watchword for Europe as far as Italy is concerned and Monti’s new austerity plan may well include a few much needed reforms.

Either Italy gets round to growing again or it will sink into that economic mire known as recession.  Indeed, the recession tunnel may be so deep this time round that Italy may be lucky to ever see the light of day again.  And if the rest of the Euro zone falls over, then Italy is going to end up covered in thick and sticky mud – it’s already in it up to its neck, largely thanks to the man who preferred bunga bunga to managing Italy.

To be fair to Silvio, Italy’s troubles are not all down to him – but, and it’s a big but, if he had not fiddled while Rome was burning, he may have saved Italy from potentially very painful austerity acts.  The ever helpful Mr Berlusconi has recently stated that he will order his party to vote against a wealth tax or electoral reform.  Whether his old party will listen to him remains to be seen – but Berlusconi has no intention of taking a back seat any time soon, even if he has been temporarily pushed into taking one.  It looks as if the Mills bribery trial may end up being shelved as time barring legislation brings the case to a close – thus saving Berlusconi’s face.  There’s still the bunga bunga trial though.

In contrast to the hard partying showman image his predecessor loved to portray, Mario Monti does not appear to be the bunga bunga type.  Monti is not plastering promises of revolutionary reform all over Italy’s media, unlike Italy’s best prime minister in 150 years.  Quite the contrary.  Monti appears to be somewhat secretive.  This is understandable, for if he were to reveal what he is up to, Italy’s ever argumentative politicians would do what they do best and argue right left and centre.  The net result would be that nothing would be done and the plan for rebuilding Italy simply would not get off the starting blocks.  In times such as these, faffing around could have very bitter consequences.  To Monti this will be crystal clear, and one suspects he has made this extremely clear to Italy’s politicians too.  In fact, they do seem to be rather restrained these days – with the possible exception of Northern League leader Umberto Bossi who is blowing raspberries and sticking up his middle finger much as he always has.

Italians and their politicians will be hoping, no doubt, that Monti will turn out to be the gold man and not the Sachs in Goldman Sachs.

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