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Posted by on Nov 10, 2011 in Economy, International | 2 comments

Presto Panico: Berlusconi Screws The Pooch, Italy, Maybe The World

There have been 63 (not a typo) governments in Italy since World War II, an astonishing number unless you consider that governments to Italians are what potato chips are to Americans: Bags full of empty calories that bloat the tummy and ruin their appetite for more nourishing fare. But few Italian governments have been more hapless that that led by Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi, who regularly threatens to make good on his long-standing pledge to resign and is doing so again after eight and a half disastrous, corruption sodden, sex orgy accentuated years as prime minister.

This time the reason for Berlusconi’s latest threat is not that he can’t get a stiffy, although that may well be the cause, but that he has single-handedly brought Italy to the brink of financial collapse, and if Italy goes, may go as well. Oh, and the global economy, too, because of the threat of run on banks in Italy and elsewhere.

While Italy is not yet insolvent, the rescue plan set out by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders only last month for the euro zone last month is in tatters, and the roots of the malaise can be traced back . . . yes, to Berlusconi, who while portraying himself as a pro-business liberal reformer has failed to abandon a model that used lira devaluations to offset inflation or stagflation. Between 2001 and 2010, Italy’s economy grew by less than any other country in the world except the perennial basket cases of Haiti and Zimbabwe. (This also is not a typo.)

With Italy running on fumes, there is talk of finding a technocrat to run an interim government if Berlusconi has the cojones to quit. That, of course, cannot happen soon enough.

Illustration by Bridgeman/AFP-The Economist

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