It has been 100 days since Mario Monti became the PM.
1. How do you evaluate Monti’s first 100 days? Italian politics got calmer – at least viewing from outside – but did something else change? Don’t the Italians miss Berlusconi’s unique sense of humour?
2. If you had to pick the biggest success and the biggest disappointment of Monti’s government, what would they be?
3. What impact will Monti’s technocrat government have on Italian politics in general? Do you think it will come back to business as usual and the old animosities between right and left will prevail or will Monti’s calm and unifying style start some change in the style of Italian politics.
James Walston, Professor of International Relations, The American University of Rome
1. He became Prime Minister with two principal aims: to restore confidence in Italy’s ability to service its debt – he began this process with the November austerity measures and he has already gone a long way to restore confidence in Italy simply by being able to deal with European leaders and Obama with authority and respect.
What is missing is the everyday skirmishing between the two main parties which now both support Monti. And the biggest single divisive element, Berlusconi, is not centre stage.
Most Italians do not think that their leaders should use racist and sexist humour. So they do miss B’s sense of humour but with relief. Monti, by the way, has a very subtle sense of humour which is appreciated by many.
2. Success: to have introduced serious austerity measures and maintained a 61% approval rating. To have reduced the cost of Italy’s borrowing to acceptable levels. Disappointment: to seem to be soft on banks and other powerful institutions (he is not, or at least it is too early to judge, but it does look that way). He and some of his ministers have made remarks (Marie Antoinette type remarks like “a steady job is monotonous” and “Italian young people just want to have job close to mother”) about lack of job security that show a lack of sensitivity towards the un- or underemployed.
3. If he stays on till April 2013, there is a good chance that Italian politics will change dramatically – possibly with one of his ministers going into politics. Italy does go through a revolution every generation, 20-25 years and the country is ripe for another. He has said he wants to change Italian habits and he might just do it.
Philip Giurando, Doctoral Candidate, Queen’s University
1. Italians mostly do not miss Berlusconi, because ever since Monti formed a government there have been visible improvements in Italy’s international image and in bond markets. Investors seem to be confident in Monti, which is why interest rates on Italian debt have continued to decline, and there is no longer the panic and fear of an Italian default that was present when Berlusconi was in power. That said, it is an open question whether Monti will be able to permanently change Italian politics. To do this requires deep cultural change, and the jury is stilll out on whether these changes have begun to take place.
2. The biggest success has been the moves towards liberalizing the professions and some big firms like Eni. The Italian economy needs a dose of competition and openness because for years it has been blocked by hundreds of lobbies who have used the power of the state to protect their own interests at the expense of everyone else. That said, his liberlizing reforms did not go far enough, because he needs to maintian social peace. He still relies on the support of Parliament, and the parties in Parliament are supported by the lobbies, and so there are limits to what he can. Also, for the last budget he relied too much on tax increases, which is one of the reasons why Italy is in a recession.
3. I honestly believe that sooner or later Italy’s politics will return to the way it was, because for Italy’s politics to truly change, deep cultural change is required, and it is not clear that Monti, who will only be in power until 2013, will be able to change Italian culture. Afterall, Italy has had great technical governments in the past led by great statesmen like Ciampi, Amato, and Dini, but after they did their work Italian politics returned to its usual short-sightedness and messiness.