Dear Prime Minister Monti,
This humble letter by your fellow countryman is intended to make some suggestion – although you should not need any given your excellent credentials – for solving Italy’s troubles and, as a consequence, the EU’s as a whole.
I have chosen to write this letter for this prestigious online magazine for two reasons: first of all, because most Italian newspapers would probably ignore any email coming from a young graduate. And secondly, because it will give wide exposure to Italy’s beleaguered state within the European and international arena.
Some criticized you for being a fierce defender of the great financial powers – the Trilateral Commission, Goldman Sachs, the European Central Bank, the IMF and other investors in Italian public debt. You were pointed to as the saddest example of economics triumphing over the traditional politics of citizens, parties and a debate of ideas.
Nonetheless, although you have not been elected for representing the Italian government, you have an incredible opportunity on your hands. With wise governance, you could cancel out years of inefficiency, backward-looking politics and irresponsible management. The world’s seventh-biggest economy has been brought to the mire.
As a technician, you have no concern with being re-elected at the end of this term, in 2013. Pragmatism will definitely prevail over populism and demagogy. Italians are passively accepting spending cuts to pensions and education, and other austerity measures; but our degraded political leadership could be given a lesson in responsibility and social justice. A good starting point would be your firm commitment to cut costs in Italian politics, since recent data reported that Italy’s MPs earn on average four times as much as their Spanish colleagues. Politics has become a career in our country, and that is very dangerous for our democracy.
Another sensitive issue is meritocracy: if in the last fifteen years growth has been no more than 0.75% and poverty has increased to around eight million people, lack of fair competition has been the main cause. Dear Mr Monti, by making an extraordinary contribution to the world’s academia, politics and science, you are the clearest example of the brain-drain Italy is suffering. If only meritocracy was restored, many of the over four million Italian expatriates may think of getting a return ticket to the Belpaese.
Then there is competitiveness: the moment for liberalizations has been postponed for too long. Entire sectors of the market, such as pharmacies, taxis and newspaper agencies are blocked, as tenacious groups of interests tend to defend their – even legitimate – benefits from paralysing our economy. Yet only by tackling such restraints could Italy finally experience greater and faster growth, as well as allow more young people to invest their future in those activities. Corporativism is often a synonym for social caste. A crackdown on this is needed.
Dear Mr Monti, you showed admirable courage as European Commissioner for Competition in vetoing the merger of two American firms (General Electric and Honeywell) in 2001, and in denouncing and forcing the giant Microsoft to pay a $497 million fee for abuse of a dominant position. Now Italians want to see this attitude in the national arena: they want to see bold action for reforming the television system, which is dominated by an unopposed duopoly.
Solving the conflict of interests may seem ambitious, but you are the last hope for building fair competition and equity in a country where governments have proved utterly incapable of taking measures of that kind, since privileges and corrupt interests have long been untouched.
These are only a few of the many problems affecting our declining nation, that natural mirror of a Europe that lies in pieces. It is well known that, although you won the Parliament’s confidence, your action will be restrained or even opposed by many MPs, parties, lobbies and trade unions. But courage is necessary at this point. You have demonstrated your bravery when it comes to difficult and painful decisions in the common interest. With self-confidence and sacrifice, Italy would start a new process; as a new nation, it could be a protagonist in Europe and the world.
Dear Mr Monti, you have not only the future of Italy in your hands, but also the destiny of the old Continent as a whole. People are quite aware that you cannot accomplish miracles in less than half a term – but your rule can certainly be the first step towards a new Italian (and European) Renaissance.