The government’s credibility is the biggest challenge for Berlusconi.

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Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, as he starts his five year term in government,  knows very well that time is already running short to meet the present challenges and demanding tasks the country desperately needs.

Despite being 71 years old and having undergone heart surgery last year, the Prime Minister appears to be in control, having won a large majority in Parliament,  and determined not to waste the mandate he has  received once again by Italian constituents. Thus he intends to strike the hammer while the iron is hot and act immediately to tackle the difficult situation in Naples submerged by rubbish, neglected by local administrators and  under the effective control of local organized crime, “la camorra”.

 

However, if  issues such as these are to be solved rapidly, the Italian well-known habit to compromise needs to be put aside.

 

In the latest Cabinet meeting held in Naples, an event in itself, the actual location of disposal sites incorporated in the government’s plan have not been disclosed. In fact, once sites names are made public, it is expected an outburst of protests, if not rioting, by infuriated locals.

This not-in-my-back-yard  (NIMBY) approach by the people of Naples has already been taken into account and the government plan on rubbish disposal, therefore, will be backed by the use of the army.

 

Mr. Berlusconi intends to act swiftly in Naples as he foresees the damaging impact of media coverage of clashes between soldiers in anti-riot gear and common citizens on the government’s approval ratings. The Prime Minister’s willingness to take action is supported also by national polls which indicate that Italians badly want the situation to be back in control in Naples.

 

The decisive action needed to restore decent living conditions in Naples, points at the utter lack of authority of the Italian state in many parts of the country, especially in southern Italy.

 

Besides Naples, there are also many national issues that affect negatively the growth of an already sluggish economy.

Tax evasion remains high; undeclared employment continues to strive; the judiciary is ill-equipped  to deal with the backlog of civil and criminal cases; more than three million employees in the public sector won’t make things easy for any minister who wants to cut the still too rich and inefficient public expenditures of the state, etc.

 

And the public debt, 105 % of GDP, continues to be, and will be for generations to come, an heavy burden on public finances.

 

These examples illustrate the meagre state of some local and national institutions that are unable to cope, not only with the challenges set forth by globalization, but, as in the case of Naples, are incapable of providing for the basic public utilities of a modern country.

 

Therefore, reinstating the credibility of the state is, and will be, the main objective of Mr.Berlusconi’s government.

This goal can be delivered by concrete and  tangible actions being taken at all levels of government.

 

This is also the case for institutional reforms, among which political and institutional comity is the most needed.

 

Politically, Italy is one of the most fractious and divisive countries, feature that has contributed greatly to its current condition.

Last elections, by contrast, have delivered a Parliament not only shed of the extreme right and left, but also with a smaller number of political parties.

This turning point in the Italian political landscape is leading to unexpected side-effects.

The recently formed centre-left party “Partito Democratico”, or Democratic Party, not only has done away with the unpredictable radical left, but has relinquished its consolidated stance  to demonise  Mr. Berlusconi’s presence at the helm of  the government.

Furthermore, Mr Veltroni, leader of the PD, has recently formed a shadow cabinet, a new entity for Italian politics, whose role was immediately recognised by Mr. Berlusconi.

 

This modified reality among the main political players needs to be rapidly framed into a new constitutional text, that will certify the birth of a new, more credible and hopefully more effective, political system.

 

However, this still weak two-party system is, as we speak, the only conceivable way for Italy to get through its present malaise.

 

Necessity, as the history of this country has repeatedly shown, may bear the fruit of a change in the creative, but often self-lashing, Italian mindset.

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