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.


 

Nixon and Kissinger Talk China: Satire

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2022

Former President Nixon and Henry Kissinger engrossed in conversation, 1972. Source: Wikimedia.

Tony Zielinski
Attorney at Law

Editor’s note: This satire is meant for purposes of humor and should not be interpreted as historically accurate. 

Henry Kissinger: Mr. President, I suggest we open up formal relations with Communist China and they will be our allies against the Soviet Union.

President Nixon: Do you feel we can trust their leader, Mao Tse Tung?

Henry Kissinger: Mao Tse Tung is the greatest mass murderer in history. He is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.  He is a ruthless unscrupulous tyrant. So my answer is a most resounding yes.

President Nixon: Yes…I think I understand and can work with someone like that.

Henry Kissinger: A big challenge will be how we deal with Democratic and free Taiwan. They have been great friends and allies.  Communist China regards them as a renegade state and China will not rest until they conquer Taiwan and take away their freedoms. China will subjugate them to unspeakable brutality because they dared to have freedom of speech, freedom of press, and the right to vote for their elected representatives. Mao will never forgive them.

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The Risks of AI: An Interview with Georgetown’s Helen Toner

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 1, January 2022

Helen Toner, Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University.

Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Publisher of the Journal of Political Risk

The JPR interview with Helen Toner, the Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University, was conducted via email between 4 January 2022 and 13 January 2022.

Corr: What are the national security risks and benefits of AI?

Toner: This is a huge question! AI is a general-purpose technology, meaning that—like electricity or the computer—its impacts will be felt across practically all industries and areas of society. Accordingly, it presents a huge range of potential risks and benefits from a national security perspective. One way of trying to summarize the possibilities might be as follows: the benefits will largely be in line with the kinds of benefits we have seen from increasingly sophisticated computing technology more generally: greater efficiency and accuracy, as well as the ability to perform tasks at scales impossible for humans (think: how Google search trawls the web). In terms of risks, one breakdown proposed by Zwetsloot and Dafoe is to think in terms of risks from accidents (i.e. unintended outcomes from using AI), misuse (i.e. the deliberate use of AI to cause harm), and structural changes (i.e. how progress in AI shapes surrounding systems and dynamics). I realize this is fairly abstract, but it’s impossible to enumerate specific risks without narrowing the scope to particular application areas, time frames, and actors.

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Politics in the De-politicised: TikTok as a Source of China’s Soft Power

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 11, November 2021

TikTok logo. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Zuza Nazaruk

Last year’s “TikTok war” revealed unprecedented hostility of the US government towards the Chinese tech newcomer. The seemingly innocuous software was developed by ByteDance, a Chinese unicorn companyTikTok is a sister app of Douyin, created for the Chinese market. Both apps allow users to share and watch short videos. In July 2020, then-President Donald Trump accused TikTok of a series of breaches, the most serious of which was sharing user data with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Levine, 2020). Yet, some experts, including Adam Segal from the Council of Foreign Relations, considered the near-ban a smokescreen to hinder the growth of the most globally successful Chinese app to date (Campbell, 2020). In 2020, TikTok was the most downloaded app globally, with 89 million new users just in the US (Geyser, 2021). To date, 23% of Americans use or have watched TikTok, with an average American user having spent 14.3 hours monthly on the app in 2020 (Tankovska, 2021).

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Emerging Market Index: An Interview with Life + Liberty’s Perth Tolle

Journal of Political Risk, Vol.9, No. 11, November 2021

Perth Tolle, the founder of Life + Liberty Indexes and the creator of the Freedom 100 EM Index.

Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Publisher of the Journal of Political Risk

This JPR interview with Perth Tolle, founder of Life + Liberty Indexes and creator of the Freedom 100 EM Index, was conducted via email between 14 September 2021 and the 25 November 2021. 

Corr: Can you please explain what your ETF is for those who have no financial experience?

Tolle: An ETF, or exchange traded fund, is a tradable basket of securities, similar to a mutual fund. But unlike mutual funds, ETFs trade on exchanges, and are known for their transparency, tax efficiency, and lower cost.

Most ETFs track an index. And most indexes are market capitalization weighted – where the biggest companies,  and countries, by their market capitalization, get the biggest allocations in the index.

There are three main categories of country classifications for global stocks – developed markets (DM), emerging markets (EM) and frontier markets (FM). Continue reading