The start of Mario Draghi’s speech on Monday in the Chamber of Deputies might have given some naïve listeners hope that a change could be glimpsed amidst the drabness of the speeches by government leaders.
His contrasting of the living suffering of millions of people with the dryness of figures and tables might have given the impression that the dramatic nature of the situation and its consequences on the human level were at the heart of the problem to which the government’s plan was aimed to provide a remedy.
That illusion lasted only a moment. Even the hint from April 25, when Draghi made a more-than-rhetorical speech during the celebrations, was immediately snuffed out by the predictable De Gasperi-style exhortation to abandon particular interests for the good of the country. The rest of his speech made it clear that the technocratic nature of the government—which Draghi embodies more than Conte, but without reversing the trend—could not admit of surprises.
And so, after the last-minute corrections which prompted the few members of the parliamentary oppositions present to ask for a postponement to read the text of more than 300 pages—a request which was voted down—we witnessed the presentation of a plan without a soul.
It does not differ in logic from the previous versions, except in changes to some allocations of the available resources. It reiterates the six well-known “missions.”
It speaks of the “context” reforms—to public administration, to justice, the simplification of legislation (and therefore of controls on contracts and concessions), the promotion of competition—on which Draghi must have given his word to Brussels, given their vagueness. But nothing was said about the most necessary and urgent one: tax reform.
What emerged was a picture in which social reforms are expunged, while system modernization remains. It is no coincidence that the vexed question of “governance” (Draghi’s modesty in using English terminology is more comical than hypocritical) was resolved by placing everything under the command of the Finance Ministry and a decision-making structure entrusted to the ministries, with technocratic leadership. The concluding words of his speech were dedicated to putting up a façade of optimism on the feasibility of the Plan.
It remains a mystery how one could generate any enthusiasm for a project which from the start—provided all goes well, including the international economic situation and the health situation—says that we will need four years and €191.5 billion from the European Union to reach the employment situation that we had in June 2019, already at the bottom of the European rankings, especially in terms of youth and female employment. And the touted family-oriented vision—with the mentioned Family Act—will certainly not improve our situation on those two fronts.
To do so, a general activation of society’s energies would be needed, starting from the points of greatest suffering. One would need to make these the launching pad for an alternative model of development. In essence, vertical priorities such as ecological transformation, digitization and healthcare should intersect and be read through the horizontal dimension of the territories. One would then find that the center of this plan should be the rebirth of Southern Italy.
Minister Carfagna is happy with the 40% of Recovery resources earmarked for the South. But it would take much more. She says that the €82 billion that would be spent in five years is a sum so high as has “never been seen before.” An odd comparison. The work of the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno—with all its faults—took place over 58 years, with different levels of intensity, for a total of €342.5 billion, and the South, even with the painful migration towards the North, has been a decisive engine for the development of our country, particularly between 1950 and 1973, shortening the distance behind the North in terms of per capita GDP. Svimez calculates that every euro of investment to the South generates approximately €1.30 of added value for the country, and that approximately 25% of this ends up benefiting the Center-North. Much less flows in the opposite direction.
Furthermore, given the diminishing returns as the capital stock grows, we are seeing a multiplier trending downward in the North and upward in the South. What better territory than the South for a true ecological transformation aiming at green hydrogen, at a productive reconversion starting from ILVA in Taranto, overcoming the bitter conflict between health and labor?
It is not a matter of connecting a few ports, but of thinking about another politics, in every sense, for Italy and Europe in the Mediterranean. In the United States as well, a debate has begun on the “American Rescue Plan,” precisely around the concept of infrastructure.
Bernie Sanders has said that it was necessary not only to guarantee the resources for the physical infrastructure, but also for “human infrastructure,” neglected for a long time. But in order to do this in our country as well, we should focus not on “professionalizing” education, but rather on education that forms citizens who would be capable of thinking beyond the way things are.
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