Italy's post-election challenge
Should you read about Italy in the financial press, you might be excused for thinking that the days of la dolce vita are over: “zero growth, record deficits and staggering unemployment,” writes Newsweek International in its May 1, 2006 issue. This woeful record, after all, was the main issue raised by Romano Prodi in his campaign. Nevertheless, Berlusconi fell short of controlling the Camera dei Deputati (the lower house of Parliament) by getting only 25,000 votes out of 38 million less than his competitor. Which suggests that half of Italy concluded that life in Italy is still sweet.
How could it be possible? “Are Italians drinking too limoncello?” asks Barbie Nadeau in her piece. Not really, she (kindly) writes. As a matter of fact there is an important factor to be considered:
Italy’s long postwar history of doomsday predictions that didn’t come true. In 2001, when Berlusconi last came to power, the main fear was that he’d use his media holdings to boost his political advantage. As it turned out, the mogul’s TV and print publications mostly painted him as a scoundrel. In 1996, when Romano Prodi first beat Berlusconi, no outsiders thought the country could possibly manage the reforms required to join the euro zone. Before that, naysayers always found omens of apocalyptic proportions. In 1992, Italy recovered from its temporary suspension from the European monetary system when no one said it could. In the 1970s and ’80s, it was national terrorism and civil unrest that threatened disaster.
Well, if I can say it, this is exactly what I think with regard for the past. But what about the present and the future? What about “the long-awaited, much-needed (and painful) reforms?”
Italians sometimes surprise even themselves when new laws are imposed. Six years ago, who’d have thought they’d obey helmet regulations when riding their Vespas? Or stop smoking their MS cigarettes with their meals? But you won’t see a bare head on a moto in Milan these days, and the air in any Roman trattoria is as clean as it would be in San Francisco. If Italians can learn so quickly to do without those classic appurtenances of la bella figura, maybe they can be convinced of the need to impose some order on the country’s economic figures, too. But first they must believe such stiff medicine is indeed necessary.
That’s right. In fact, now the challenge will be how and when my fellow-countrymen will convince themselves that “such stiff medicine is indeed necessary.” But now we can count on the former communists of the Democrats of the Left party and, above all, on the Communist Refoundation party and the Party of the Italian Communists. Making no bones about it, doesn’t this essentially render the whole situation easy to manage? Are you skeptical by chance?
Categorie:somewhere in italy