Italy still thrives under Berlusconi, despite his faults
Published: April 8 2010 03:00 | Last updated: April 8 2010 03:00
From Mr Rosario A. Iaconis.
Sir, If Silvio Berlusconi represents all that is nefarious, scandalous and operatically authoritarian about Italy – as Geoff Andrews so sneeringly avers (“Italy is still unable to see beyond Berlusconi”, April 5) – how does one explain the Magic Boot’s ability to navigate the global economic tsunami on il Cavaliere’s watch? And what of Mr Berlusconi’s swiftly efficient responses to the L'Aquila earthquake and the sanitation crisis in Naples?
Yes, Mr Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà party must contend with the obnoxious Umberto Bossi. And Mr Berlusconi’s peccadilloes have raised more than a few eyebrows. But such episodes pale in comparison with the carnal imbroglios of, say, Bill Clinton, John Edwards or Eliot Spitzer.
Though growth remains problematic and joblessness has increased, Italy still maintains a lower unemployment rate than the US, Germany or France. Spain’s jobless rate hovers about 20 per cent. Though Greece plunged the European Union into a severe monetary crisis, il bel Paese remains remarkably stable. In fact, Italian home ownership (81.7 per cent) is the highest among the Group of Seven. Moreover, according to economists at Crédit Agricole (Europe’s largest retail bank), Italy has the lowest public finance related risk – among a contingent including Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain – by virtue of its superior fiscal status and recent structural pension reforms.
Mirabile dictu: Italy is a founding member of the G7 and the world’s fifth-largest industrial democracy – not a hardscrabble state in the southern Balkans. What’s more, the Italian economy boasts advanced aerospace, automotive and environmental industries (and a burgeoning solar energy sector). ASI, the Italian Space Agency, will join the European Space Agency in three bold new scientific missions: probing dark energy; detecting habitable planets circling other stars; and unlocking the mysteries of our own sun. The Italian experts include Bologna university’s Andrea Cimatti, Giampaolo Piotto of Padova university, and Ester Antonucci from the Turin Observatory. Microsoft Research’s cloud computing colloquium features the pioneering work of Calabria university’s Domenico Talia: “Towards an Open Service Framework for Cloud-based Knowledge.”
Mr Berlusconi’s greatest achievement, however, may well be Italy’s call to self-assertion in foreign policy. Indeed, the prime minister’s triumphant three-day state visit to Israel in February underscored the pivotal role the Seed of Aeneas plays in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and across the globe.
Rosario A. Iaconis,
The Italic Institute of America,
Mineola, NY, US