The project of enacting austerity measures, which were implemented across Eurozone member states triggering angry reactions from voters, must continue in the view of the European Central Bank that is headed by a prominent Italian economist, Mario Draghi.
Commentators are increasingly coming to terms with the way Italy originally adopted the Euro currency. Critics say that this was done in a hurry, without a systematic control of checks and balances which existed in some other EU members such as Germany and the Netherlands. Fiscal discipline, or the lack of it, surrounding the common currency’s introduction is becoming more apparent in the current economic climate. In Southeast European and Mediterranean countries it was precisely a casual approach to fiscal changes a decade ago which is returning to bite the national governments in the back. On top of that, how is Europe going to compete with other large economies, especially the rising Asian powers, if EU members cannot demonstrate the required fiscal discipline that ought to start at home? This is main paradox existing in Italy today, which confronts the voters, businesses and policy-makers: how best to balance between social needs of your community in order to make it stronger as a competitor in global economy vis-a-vis other regions, and requirements of the ECB to stabilise the Eurozone?
Discipline might be the key and also provide some relief for millions of tourists flocking to Rome each year. Let’s descent to the local level for a moment. First, the price for a cup of coffee should be standardised and the cafe barrista should stop discriminating between the tourists and the locals. If we establish the cappucino price at, lets say, 2 Euros per cup wherever you are in Rome, it would be more equitable for consumers and reduce tax avoidance as the owners will not be able to charge anymore as they see fit (standing/not standing; foreigner/local-but where from?; female/male; young/old; talking to the owner’s husband / or not). The same principle could be applied to other areas of life in Rome and elsewhere in Italy. Standardisation of prices may be the first step, but an oversight of and by the financial police could prove to be equally problematic.
Second, all sides of politics need to embrace change as the only means of surviving the economic crisis. However, in a country where tourism is the main activity the change must occur with a smile (even a fake one). Whilst the beautiful Colosseo and other wonders of the ancient Roman civilisation will continue to attract visitors from all around the world, a significant under-investment in their preservation has already made matters worse. Italy should perhaps start thinking like China, in forward terms or at least a generation ahead, since its historical legacy is one of the best stories of the Western and Eastern civilisations which needs to be more protected and looked after without shortcuts. And with or without the Euro.
Perhaps the 2012 Nobel prize (as per the pic below) was in fact the only thing that could ‘save’ the EU solidarity from Beppe Grillo and his clones across Europe?