Italy’s New Government: Business as Usual

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 11, No. 1, January 2023

Lorenzo Ammirati

Poster of Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy Party, 2022. Source: Duncan Cumming via Flickr.

Nationalist identarian right-wing party Fratelli d’Italia (“Brothers of Italy”) was the only major Italian party to oppose former European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s “national unity” coalition government which governed Italy between February 2021 and September 2022. Among the key campaign promises made by Fratelli d’Italia’s leader and current Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during the electoral campaign of September 2022 was a break with the economic policies of the Draghi government. However, the first Italian female Prime Minister has thus far demonstrated the opposite orientation.

In fact, Meloni’s sphere of decision making on economic policy is severely limited. Italy’s extremely high levels of public debt (above 150% of GDP) coupled with weak trust from financial markets and the European Union’s tight fiscal rules make it very costly (both financially and reputationally) for any Italian government to finance new public policies. Additionally, investments are currently mainly being made through the European Union’s Recovery Instrument, an ad-hoc fund created after the COVID-19 pandemic which lends money for EU approved projects, greatly constraining the power of the Italian government.

The war in Ukraine and the consequent energy crisis are further restricting the scope for economic changes. Together with Germany, Italy is the European country most dependent on Russian gas imports, and the current government (like the previous one) is committing much of its resources towards shielding businesses and families from the price increases. In the Italian 2022/2023 budget law, two-thirds of the financial resources were allocated to fighting these price increases and mitigating the additional economic consequences of the war. These measures were ‘copy-pasted’ from the budget law drafted under the Draghi government.

The remaining third of the 2022/2023 budget law funds were allocated to policies benefiting those groups that supported Meloni and her right-wing coalition government allies. These symbolic policies included an increase in the minimum state pensions of roughly 20 euros per month for people over the age of 75 in 2023, tax breaks for some very restricted categories of self-employed workers, and a 5% VAT reduction on baby products.

These policies too were pushed forward inside the previous government by the two current coalition parties of Meloni, Forza Italia (led by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi) and Lega, which were also part of the coalition government led by Draghi, together with the center-left Partito Democratico and the populist Movimento Cinque Stelle.

Though little has changed on the economic front, something has indeed changed since Meloni’s government took power. The government’s approach towards migrants (especially sub-Saharan Africans) became tougher, public prosecutors and the justice system are facing increased pressure, and anti-abortion groups hope for the government to introduce restrictive measures in the near future. It is no coincidence that the common feature of these changes is that they require no government expenditure.

Both for structural and contingent reasons, Meloni’s government could not overturn the previous Italian government’s economic policies, despite campaigning on a platform of great discontinuity. It is yet to be seen what the Fratelli d’Italia-led coalition government will do once its hands are free from the energy crisis and the Ukrainian war. But thus far, governmental power has rendered far-right nationalist Meloni’s economic policies almost identical to the ones of a former European Central Banker, and there are few reasons to believe this will change in the future.


Lorenzo Ammirati holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Bologna, and an MA in International Relations from SOAS, University of London. He has worked in institutions, public affairs, and political risk consulting. Currently he works alongside an Italian MP.


 

One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back: Women Tango with Reproductive Rights

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 9, September 2022

RiseUp4AbortionRights protest in Lafayette Square, September 2022. Source: Victoria Pickering via Flickr.

Stephanie Wild
University of Cape Town

It is often assumed that progress is linear. This assumption is seen when looking at human rights. The usual formula begins with an activist group. Members of civil society take action to change injustices that they see within society. At the point where civil disobedience and protest becomes unmanageable, government officials are pressured into making legislative changes. From there, a societal mind-shift occurs. At this stage, disenfranchisement becomes frowned upon. This is the formula to progress. However, the reality is not so straight-forward. Rather, progress ebbs and flows. It is in flux. 

This is keenly seen when looking at the world’s attitude towards women’s rights and bodily autonomy. For one, the US is now reversing the steps forward taken by feminist activists in the 1970s. More specifically, in 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled that the Texas ban on abortion was unconstitutional. This case, known as Roe v. Wade, paved the way forward. The ruling did not only apply to Texas. Rather, any undue state restriction on abortion became unconstitutional. On June 24th, 2022 this all changed. The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which removed 50 years of legal protection for women seeking safe abortions. Due to legislation in place prior to the 1973 ruling, abortion was automatically outlawed in many states as a result of the overturning. Other states took action to implement bans. As a result, abortion is now banned across a number of US states, namely Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Louisiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The consequence is that women today find themselves fighting the same battle fought by the activists of the early 1970s.  Continue reading

China’s Sharp Power

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 8, August 2022

A series of paintings of communist leaders lined up along a Hong Kong road, 2016. Source: Flickr.

Roman Štěpař
Charles University

If we understand geopolitics as a “representation of space”, then the Indo-Pacific region can be seen as an emerging geopolitical hotbed in which major powers struggle not only for control but also for discourse of values and worldviews. In this particular geopolitical competition of values and mindsets, a sharp power is gradually gaining prominence, and in the Indo-Pacific region, China is at the center of the action.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the lessons of Gorbachev’s “failure” were passed on to Chinese citizens. They denounced Moscow’s ideological neglect for this catastrophe and warned that it was possible that it would happen in China as well. Chinese foreign policy has as a result been transformed. After 40 years of remarkable rise, China has now clearly demonstrated its desire to lead the world by reasserting itself in a position that its leaders consider “historically correct.”

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Political Risk to the Mining Sector in South Africa

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 8, August 2022

Randfontein Mine, Johannesburg, November 2014. Source: Paul Raad via Flickr.

Ndzalama Cleopatra Mathebula 
Institute of Risk Management South Africa

Generally defined, political risk is the expected cost or loss incurred by a business due to political decisions, events, and actions. With the evolution of the discipline, it is not only government or organizations that can generate  political risks, but also labour unions and civil society that can emanate risks. The South African mining sector includes abundant political risk yet is an attractive investment destination given its large platinum, gold, and coal reserves.

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Rape: The Russian Tool of Conquest

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 6, June 2022

Police uncover the body of Karina Yeshiva, 22, in Bucha. Witnesses say she was tortured, raped, and shot in the head by Russian soldiers. Source: DW.

Stephanie Wild
University of Cape Town

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, at least 4,000 civilians have been killed. Moscow has therefore been accused of targeting civilians. However, this is not the only tactic emerging. Acts of rape and sexual violence are also emerging as a weapon of war. In fact, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on the 3rd of June stating that they had already received allegations of 124 acts of conflict-related sexual assault in Ukraine. These reported assaults have mostly been against women and girls, ranging from gang rape, to coercion, to forcibly bearing witness to acts of sexual violence perpetrated against partners and children. Concerns surrounding human traffickers exploiting existing networks are also on the rise. A United Nations Security Council meeting, in particular, brought this to the attention of the world on June 6. 

Sexual violence being heavily associated with stigma and shame, the concern is that the actual figure is much higher than 124. A more accurate idea of the actual figure will only emerge with an end to the conflict. However, considering the number of reported sexual assaults, it is clear that Ukrainian women are the victims of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian soldiers each day. This points to a weaponization of sexual violence.  

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