ITALY’S TECHNOCRATIC GAMBIT

One of the safest pair of hands in Europe focuses on the economic revival of his new charge.


As a result of the last political crisis, the Italian president has appointed former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to rescue the country.  Italians did not have a chance to express their say, once more.

Italian politics is famous for being loud, scandalous, shaky.  Machiavellian tactics and quarrels are often the preferable paths that guide political actions.  From their precious red armchairs, politicians appear to be more focused on games of power and revenges rather than achieving the best for their citizens.  Or possibly, some just try to muddle the waters for confusing the public and hiding what really is on stake.

One reason or another, the outcome is the same.  As a result of the last political crisis, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte gave in his resignation.  On the 3rd of February, Italian president Sergio Mattarella asked to the former ECB president Mario Draghi to step up.  After saving the Euro, he accepted to rescue the country and form a new technocratic government.

One more time Italian citizens could only spectate the fragile political landscape while crumbling and then being re-seized.  Everything happened in the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession that is said to be the worst that the country will face after the Second World War.

Mainstream media are now looking at the new developments with a positive eye.  But, is the ‘whatever it takes’ philosophy of Mario Draghi the right answer to Italy’s problems?

For understanding the reasons that lead to the latest Italy’s technocratic gambit, it is worth to look at the actors behind the government crisis.  Matteo Renzi, former prime minister and leader of the unpopular party Italia Viva, is the main protagonist of the subversive action.

Renzi initially supported the coalition led by Giuseppe Conte that was formed in 2019 comprising the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), the center-left Partito Democratico (PD), the small left-wing Liberi e Uguali, and the centrist-neoliberal Italia Viva.  Despite this, he mostly acted as opposition rather than an ally by often criticising the social measures adopted by Conte.

The tensions increased especially over the debate on how to spend the European Recovery Fund.  Italy got more than 200 billion euros, the highest amount given to any EU member so far.

Mr Renzi insisted that Italy should also apply for the other loan available, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).  No other country seems willing to use this option for the fear of the heavy conditions attached to it.

On the 13th of January, the former PD leader officially announced the resignation of two of his ministers saying that the crisis had been ongoing for months.  As Ansa reported, Matteo Renzi said: “Exactly because there is the pandemic, the rules of democracy must be respected.” 

Democracy, right.

Giuseppe Conte officially resigned on the 26th of January. In his last farewell to Italians citizens published on Facebook on the 13th of February he wrote: “It is really necessary that each of us actively participate in the political life of our country and undertake, especially, to distinguish the (good) politics, the one with a capital P  which has the sole objective of improving the quality of life of citizens, from (bad) politics, intended as mere management of current events aimed at guaranteeing the survival of those who make it a living profession.”

This is not the first time that Italians have been governed by technocrats. Draghi is the fourth non-political figure appointed to be prime minister in the last three decades.  It seems indeed the favourite and straight forward strategy to react to crisis.

Monti’s technical government was formed in 2011 as a reaction of the political scandal that involved the then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.  Also in that occasion the Italian establishment pointed on an economist for resolving the country’s issues. 

All this comes at the expense of the social and political side that should characterised a government. Technocrats are more willing to take unpopular decisions as they are not looking for votes.


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By Chiara Castro: Political editor



However, according to the Italian system this choice does not appear to be a weakening of democratic values.  Indeed, Italians only vote for the party who in turn will elect a representative. 

A Draghi government had been preferred to elections also for the fear that a right-wing alliance led by Matteo Salvini could win.  As Politico reported, pools suggested that they would come out as winners if Italians were called to vote.

Why Mario Draghi?

Mario Draghi has a long successful record in managing crisis.

During his time in ECB between 2011 and 2019, he gained the nickname ‘Supermario’ for saving the euro from the collapse.  His promise to do “whatever it takes” for coping with the crisis is still well remembered amongst EU members.

Now, his challenge is to rescue the economy of his own country.  As Reuters reported, he said:  “Beating the pandemic, completing the vaccination campaign, offering answers to the everyday problems of the people and relaunching the country are the challenges we face.”

Despite his undeniable skills, it is not possible to avoid thinking whether or not there has been a bigger plan behind all the quarrels of the latest months.  Indeed, Draghi’s appointment seems to be perfectly in line with Mr Renzi and EU’s political vision.

There are also speculations that the change came as a result of the turn occurred in the White House.  As the historian Gianfranco Peroncini said to Libero, it is necessary to look at Washington for understanding what is going on in Italy.  A country which sovereignty appears to be always more limited. 

No matter what are the real motivations, on paper Mario Draghi seems the perfect person for the job.  He has the necessary experience and audacity for completing his task. 

As the programme manager at the European Council for Foreign Relations Teresa Coratella said to Euronews: “The role that Draghi can play in this very delicate momentum of Europe is very important.”

Although, what can be the most convenient for Italian economy and European Union agreements it does not always coincide with what is best for the citizens.  Indeed, technical governments led by economists often correspond with taxes increase and austerity measures.

It needs also to be noted that Mario Draghi is currently the co-chair of the Group of Thirty (G30). Initiative launched in 1978 by the Rockefeller Foundation, it is an independent global body composed of senior economic and financial leaders from the public, private and academic world.

On the 14th of December the G30 published its latest report that aims to set a framework within the global restructuring of the economy post-COVID.  Amongst the suggestions, there is a stress towards digitalisation and greener initiatives.

The process will not be easy to digest for citizens.  They do indeed talk about the need to optimise the use of public support towards those businesses that will have more chances of surviving in the future economy. 

They wrote: “Not all struggling firms should receive public support.  Resources should not be wasted on companies that are ultimately doomed to fail or do not need public support.

“Governments should encourage necessary or desirable business transformations and adjustments in employment.  This may require a certain amount of ‘creative destruction’ as some firms shrink or close and new ones open, and as some workers need to move between companies and sectors, with appropriate retraining and transitional assistance.”

The stakes are high, expectations and worries even more. 

Mario Draghi has already formed his new squad, missing the chance for achieving a better gender equality.  Amongst the 23 ministers, only eight are women.

On the 17th of February, his government has officially received the vote of trust by the Parliament.  There is also who already speculate about the possibility that Draghi could become the next Italian president after Matarella’s mandate will end next year.

At the moment we can just wait to see if ‘Supermario’ will really succeed in his attempt to save the country, hoping that in doing so he will remember to be the representative of citizens rather than banks.


MACKAYAN: italy’s technocratic gambit


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