When travel will be easy again, there is an episode to which we should all reserve a thought the first time we get back on a train. far, yet tied by an invisible thread with the Recovery Plan proposed yesterday in Brussels to help us get out of the worst recession in peacetime. It was the year 1994 and there was no passage to bring the North and South of the country closer with the high-speed tunnel between Florence and Bologna. The national commission for environmental impact assessment, led by the director general of the ministry of the environment, Costanza Pera, analyzes the massifs of the Apennines. And, in the end, authorize
Fourteen years later, the Court of Auditors accused Costanza Pera of tax damage: the excavation of one of the two tunnels had reached a water table that geologists had not foreseen. The magistrates asked that Pera be sentenced to repay tens of millions of euros – he said – for hiding a note from the geological service. The accusation proved to be without foundation but, before at least the prescription was recognized, Pera had already spent 40 thousand euros in lawyers.
All this with the Recovery Plan would have nothing to do, except that the Commission (as anticipated on Corriere on May 17) will ask us to intervene on these Italian follies. It will be the condition for access to those new European funds. Three quarters of the 750 billion euros that will be distributed until 2024 are linked to national plans that reduce the barriers that are capable of making public investments late, ineffective and wasted. For Italy, the reforms that the Commission has already indicated are a certain civil justice in time and results and an administration that is put in a position to function, because Italy today paralyzed by ten, one hundred, one thousand cases Costanza Pera . Every year tens of thousands of public documents remain to take dust because no one dares to sign it. The obligation of officials to act honestly and efficiently is not in question, but the exorbitant powers entrusted to the Court of Auditors to challenge the tax damage trigger the great escape from the responsibilities of a part of the administrative class. The paralysis of the state and the economy can be explained (also) in this way.
Now Europe is asking us to unravel these issues, because the outlays from Brussels will then be tied to checks on each of them. Yet, once again, a surreal dialogue between the deaf is taking place between Rome and Brussels. In Italy, we are working on the only truly unconditional program, the new type of aid from the Mes bailout fund for health protection spending; in the rest of Europe, however, attention is shifting to growth factors that can defuse the threat of our public debt. On May 19, from the Corriere della Sera columns, Christine Lagarde overturned in a few words the entire conceptual structure of the Stability Pact. What matters is to make a debt sustainable and reduce it not its absolute level in relation to the gross product, observed the president of the European Central Bank; rather, growth over time must outweigh the weight of the interests a state has to bear.
Cos Lagarde and the whole European Union are taking away all excuses. The ECB will keep the cost of Italian debt low for now, even if it is approaching the limits of what it can legally do for us. Funds linked to precise industrial investments that we have not carried out for twenty years will come from Brussels. We will no longer be able to hide behind the accusations of austerity, if Italy has grown less than half of the penultimate in this ranking (Greece, Portugal and Finland) from the lowest point of the Great Recession in 2013 at the beginning of this pandemic. We cannot even think that we are now in the country of the country because of the simple fact that the Commission has suspended (for now) the budgetary rules and the ECB (for now) is making the Bank of Italy buy hundreds of billions of public debt.
Just do two math to understand why. Having canceled the safeguard clauses that always promised future increases in VAT was an act of transparency. Having introduced an eco-bonus that charges the state for real estate renovations in excess of costs, on the contrary, can encourage a wave of smart people willing to inflate prices. Certainly the sum of the two measures – with unchanged policies – adds another 360 billion in public debt over the next ten years. Meanwhile 2020 will destroy at least 1.2 million jobs in Italy, the Commission wrote yesterday. And we know that both the funds for extraordinary income support measures and the blockade of layoffs will run out this summer, before the bulk of European aid begins to flow only from next January.
We are proceeding on a fragile and slippery ridge, but Lagarde and Brussels show us a way to safety. Think about it, the next time we get on a train.