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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 15 giugno 2011 alle ore 08:22.


The Economist is wrong. Yes, Berlusconi has indeed "screwed Italy", but not for having hindered its growth. I have separately calculated the average growth rate of the Gross domestic product during the last twenty years, during the center-left and center-right governments. The truth is that the country has stagnated with the center-right, with an average growth of 0.1% a year, while the average growth with the center-left was 1.4%: the difference is quite obviously abyssal if considered over twenty years.

But in order to make a correct comparison, the international situation should be taken into account, and the center-right governed during those periods (the beginning of the year 2000 and obviously during the last recession) in which the growth had been very low all over the world.

The difference with respect to other countries has been more or less the same under both sides (indeed only slightly better under the center-right): with both Italy has grown on an average of 1.1% a year less than the other EU countries, 1.2% less than the G7 countries and 1.4% less than the OSCE countries. Very helpless figures, but bipartisan. Then they tell us that we tend to give too much importance to the governments; as soon as the economy does well, those supporting the government give it all the merit; when things go bad, those against the government do nothing but blame it.

In reality many years are often needed before the reforms are reflected in an improvement of the growth that can actually be observed. Instead it is true that a government can easily and rapidly ruin a country, as those citizens in Venezuela and Zimbabwe know very well. However we can fortunately say that during the Second Republic we have had competent Financial Ministers who at least have avoided big disasters: this is a difference with respect to the 1970's and 1980's that we rarely realize.

Therefore the real negative inheritance left by Berlusconi has not been economic. The first inheritance has been having taken the social debate back thirty years. Berlusconi has confirmed and indeed reinforced the hostility instinctively felt for the market by the majority of both right-wing and left-wing Italians. He has reinforced the natural conviction of many that all the reforms are a conspiracy of the rich against the poor.

The second inheritance left by Berlusconi is having tarnished the notion of "competence". For decades Italy has been governed by professional politicians who could speak for hours about "parallel conversions" while the country was drowning. It is comprehensible that there are those who hope in a change: a manager used to solving concrete problems and able to speak directly to the famous housewife in Voghera. However Berlusconi was convinced that all he needed to do in order to govern would be to announce the abolition of ICI (the property tax) for your main home, three days before the elections, or put down the first brick on the bridge over the Strait of Messina, which he fortunately does not have the money to build, or even announce a new Housing Plan every two years, without having the foggiest idea how it should be done. And today he really believes that in order to cover a defeat all he has to do is "announce the bomb" of the relocation of some ministerial offices from Rome to Milan.

The third inheritance left by Berlusconi is the feeling of humiliation inflicted to many citizens, in the name of an anti-communist feeling which by now has become pathological and seems to justify any atrocity. The humiliation of a medieval electoral law that prevents the citizens from expressing themselves, used by those in power to elect civil servants without dignity and girls who have no clue what they are doing, while Italian families try to convince their children that studying is important. The humiliation of seeing the journalists of five television news programs, some paid by the tax-payers, interview the boss by reading tremulant questions written by him.

Finally, the fourth inheritance left by Berlusconi is having ruined the image of Italy abroad, as anyone who speaks with a foreigner knows very well. In the long run, a government with no competent leader is inevitably perceived as such in the opinion polls and in international relationships. The consequence is that these last few years have confirmed the worse cliché about Italy for foreigners (with the exception of some ministers who would have deserved a better government): improvisation, unreliability and carelessness, all flavored with bad jokes, spaghetti and mandolin. Well in view of all this, dear Economist, the economy is actually only the tip of the iceberg.

(Traduzione di Sara Cecere)

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