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.


 

Chinese Communist Party Cooperation with Gangs and Politicians in Canada: Book Review

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 5, May 2021

The book cover of Wilful Blindness, by Sam Cooper.

Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Publisher of the Journal of Political Risk

Wilful Blindness How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP agents Infiltrated the West, by Sam Cooper, Optimum Publishing International, 2021, $28.95 CAD.

An investigative reporter in Canada, Sam Cooper, is at the tip of the spear, where China injects money, drugs, spies, and underage prostitutes into all of North America. Cooper provides us with a front-row seat of China’s espionage, drug supercartels, support to terrorism, money laundering, and, for a pledge of support to Beijing, campaign donations to the politicians who lurk around China’s United Front groups in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. Add to that investigations of trafficking in weapons. Heads of state, including Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau, are linked by the author to the nefarious characters from China who are doing this dirty business.

It sounds too crazy to be true.  

But Cooper’s new book, Wilful Blindness, is nonfiction, and based on five years of his investigative reporting on the topic, and confidential sources in Canadian intelligence and police agencies. It vindicates, and brings up to date, a joint Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report that in 1997 made many of the same claims. That report, called “Sidewinder”, was suppressed by Ottawa, which at time was trying to ink new trade deals with Beijing. 

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Accounting for the Count: COVID and the Vote

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2020

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, announces a national emergency to further battle the Coronavirus outbreak, at a news conference Friday, March 13, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

S.C.M. Paine
U.S. Naval War College

Republicans argue that the presidential vote numbers are so close that they should be reconfirmed. Yet the much reviled Hilary Clinton conceded with even closer margins and with less secure voting machines. These are the wrong numbers to track.

In contrast, the numbers are not close concerning American deaths on Donald Trump’s watch. He is scheduled to lose more Americans in a single calendar year than all American deaths in World War II. Very shortly we may be losing each day, the number of Americans we lost on 9/11. China is a threat, but it is not killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. Trump’s incompetence is.

As a China specialist, it was obvious that there was an ongoing epidemiological disaster in Wuhan by late December or early January, when we should have shut down all travel to and from China, called on our allies to do likewise, invoked emergency measures to produce protective gear, and educated Americans about the rationale for the restrictions to come. One would think that the U.S. consulate in Wuhan provided information at least a month earlier unless it was asleep at the switch. Imagine the difference if we had shut our borders in November and put the full-court press on virus containment. Hundreds of thousands of Americans might have survived 2020. Yet Bob Woodward has Trump on record minimizing the problem in April. Continue reading

Legislatures Elected by Evaluative Proportional Representation (EPR): An Algorithm

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 1, January 2020

Source: Pixabay

Stephen Bosworth, Anders Corr, Stevan Leonard1

Abstract

Unlike existing voting methods, this article describes a new method that gives all voters every appropriate reason to be pleased. Evaluative Proportional Representation (EPR) invites each citizen to grade the suitability for office of any number of candidates as either Excellent (ideal), Very Good, Good, Acceptable, Poor, or “Reject” (completely unsuitable).  EPR allows each citizen to guarantee that one of the elected members of the legislature has received either their highest grade, remaining highest grade, or proxy vote – no vote is needlessly wasted. Continue reading

Forget Presidential Politics: Sri Lanka’s Green Movement Is Its Best Hope Against China

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 11, November 2019

Construction at the site of a Chinese-funded 1.4 billion USD reclamation project in Colombo on December 5, 2017.
Half of the reclamation project to build Colombo Financial City, previously known as Colombo Port City, has been completed, with Sri Lanka hoping to turn it into an international financial centre with special laws protecting foreign investment. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Bertie Harrison-Broninski
Editor of The Civil Society Review

Sri Lanka, like many countries in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is not powerful enough to resist China on political or economic grounds – but hope lies in its burgeoning environmental movements.

This Saturday (November 16th), Sri Lankans go to the polls to elect a new president. The frontrunners are Sajith Premadasa, current Minister for Housing, Development, and Cultural affairs, and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the ruthless military leader who played a large part in defeating the ‘Tamil Tigers’ during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Both have family ties to ex-presidents: Premadasa’s father, Ranasinghe, was president 1989-1993, and Rajapaksa’s brother, Mahinda, was from 2005-2015.

International media has largely focused on the geopolitical implications of the Rajapaksas regaining power. Mahinda Rajapaksa is seen as a key player in initiating China’s current economic ‘debt trap’ over Sri Lanka, which has now led to 99-year leases on territory around Hambantota Port and Colombo, where China is constructing an entire ‘Port City’. A President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa would rightly be seen as a return to China-friendly Sri Lankan foreign policy after President Maithripala Sirisena’s more US-aligned years in office. Continue reading