OPINION: The Man Who Changed It All

In the popular minds of many uninformed locals, Italy is still that country which has had something like fifty governments in forty years, has had for donkey’s years disastrous public finances (e.g. a shocking well-over-100% debt to GDP) for again many years, where Mafia and tax avoidance is the rule and not the exception, these and other expressions of local ignorance about our close neighbours, have been rampant here for a very long time.

In all probability, if you mention to these people the name Mario Draghi (Prime Minister), they will say “Draghi who?” What a pity! It is left to aficionados of news programmes on Italian Tv stations to really be in a situation to say how much things have currently changed there. Draghi is presently working a big miracle in Italy’s economics and politics. Notice… also in politics, even though he does not have a party of his own, and neither does he, for the moment, seem to have any intention of having one.

Mario Draghi is one of that admirable breed of people who accept to dedicate all their professional talents for his country’s benefit and who are often referred to as “technocrats”. Suddenly, with him at the helm, a lot of the regular, indeed often comic, political bickering of which the wide breed of political parties made their daily staple bread, seems to have vanished from the news. Even firebrand Matteo Salvini of the former Lega Nord party has suddenly become positive, educated, almost highly responsible, in much of his outbursts.

But this general broad change in Italy’s political scenario has a ‘coming-down-the-road’ scenario unfolding. At midnight of the coming 2nd February, Italy’s present President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella’s constitutionally required seven years at that helm will end, and much “who, and what, follows what?” conjecturing, and some bickering, is already unfolding. Given Draghi’s success, there is a big group of both politicians and citizens who wish to see him in the key ceremonial, but still also much effective, presidential helm post.

Their argument goes something like this: he can be President and still guide a new less economics-savvy Prime Minister as to what to do and what to avoid. Since Draghi took over, tax revenues are on the up in the country. Industrial production is up at a wonderful rate of around 14% per month. Exports are up. Unemployment is down. Commitment not to tax people’s main (and often only) home has been kept. There is indeed a new air of “we’ve turned the tide” in much of the country.

Inevitably some politicians will seek to ride on this general public positive feeling in the country. Like for example that of Forza Italia‘s (now nominal) leader, Silvio Berlusconi, for President, but – see the chess-playing! – he has said that it will only happen if the parliamentary process for the new President gets to its fourth vote, that he will throw in his dice! One asks, how many parliamentarians will remember, or choose to forget, Berlusconi’s notorious womanising record? Or will an almost unprecedented move for both the Presidency and the PM role to be held by the same person (again Mario Draghi) be spooked out of the hat by some parliamentarians?

Italian politics is possibly the most “fun to watch and study” in the whole of Europe!

It is also immensely educative to follow and learn from. Whatever happens to Mario Draghi after the coming early February, the man from (formerly) Goldman Sachs in New York and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, has factually already taught both Italians and even many foreigners how it (managing an economy, that is) should be done.