June 6, 2007

And now, the end is near (for Prodi)

The warning, this time, comes from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. As yesterday’s Financial Times reported, the OECD praised the government's efforts at achieving fiscal discipline but said Italy's public debt remained precariously high.

The OECD report comes at a critical time for Prime minister Romano Prodi, just a few days after a crushing defeat in local elections and while the opposition is incensed that Deputy Economy Minister Vincenzo Visco has refused to resign over his alleged interference in the official inquiry into the “red” Unipol scandal, having put pressure last July on tax police (Guardia di Finanza) general commander, Roberto Speciale, to transfer four inspectors. But not only is the opposition incensed that Visco did not resign as minister, they are angered that the Government transferred Roberto Speciale—who, however, rejected the office through a letter sent to Finance Minister Padoa Schioppa—to the Financial Court (Corte dei Conti).

As it was not enough, this weekend's visit to Rome by US President George W Bush will take place amid potentially violent anti-American street protests—two separate rallies, organized by pacifist and anti-globalisation groups, are expected for Saturday in Rome.

The worst thing for Prodi and his centre-left government is that the opposition is planning a no-confidence motion against Visco—and perhaps the entire government—in the Senate today. A very risky affair for the Prime minister, given that his coalition holds only two more seats in the upper chamber than the opposition.

Yet, should Prodi overcome the obstacle, he would then have to face two other difficult tasks: to forge a consensus on pension reform that would satisfy moderates and leftwingers in his coalition, and to bring the project of the Tav in Val di Susa (a tunnel built for high speed trains that will be over 50 kilometres long and cost nearly 20 billion euros) to a successful conclusion, by overcoming the fierce (internal) opposition of Greens and Communists, not to mention social movements and local communities.

Well, to be honest, I don’t think there are many Italians who think that the Government will manage to succeed. But, to tell the truth, even little over a year ago, there were many, myself included, who were predicting that Prodi would fail—and it was not at all a risky forecast, IMHO, given the fact that Prodi had put together an impossible coalition of irreconcilables, which, in addition, is de facto dominated by the radical Left.

Hopefully, the end is near, but a whole year has been wasted. Not exactly what this Country needed.

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