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The Political Courage on the Migration Compact Will Determine the Future of Europe


Image Courtesy of Chappatte: http://www.globecartoon.com

Premise: we must not forget that when we talk about migration we are actually talking about thousands of human lives–innocent children, women and men–that get lost every year in the pursuit of a normal life. The humanitarian aspect of migration in the Mediterranean is dramatic and should by itself be sufficient to allow EU countries to take unprecedented measures to curb this tragic reality. This is definitely what should have already driven EU countries to put forward a long-term plan. The incapacity or political unwillingness from certain member states to come up with a solution has been, however, evident so far.

The issue of migration flows is the next imminent threat to the unity of the EU. Considering that the number of attempts to cross the Mediterranean multiply over the summer period, the crisis requires an immediate resolution.

It’s the time for a political turning point. The best way to demonstrate the relevance of the EU in face of Brexit is to push for a courageous Migration Compact à l’italienne rather than the watered-down version that came of out of the Commission.

If the EU comes out again with its renowned half-measures (at best) on the migration issue, it will be a further confirmation of its inability in decision-making, thereby reinforcing euroscepticism.

Immigration policies have played a crucial role on Brexit. The EU needs to show it is able to provide timely and courageous responses to those global challenges. This is the only way to demonstrate that “together we are stronger.” This may really be the last call to keep the EU together.

Political instability, wars, the spread of ISIS, climate change, failed states are all factors telling us that the magnitude of migration flows is not a contingency and we must expect such massive flows to be a constant for many years to come. In order to face such a long-term global challenge, the EU needs to show its unity.

Three main aspects are worth analyzing. The crux of the matter remains first and foremost political. There is a need to find a mechanism for co-responsibility with the other member States. This was the core message of the Italian proposition in the original text of the Migration Compact that called for a Eurobond, which would signal the shared responsibility in facing the crisis. Mario Giro, Italy’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has recently stated that “Italy is not ideologically attached to the idea of Eurobonds” and that “alternative measures are welcome” as long as the political message of mutual responsibility remains the same.

Second, the financial resources to be put on the table are the indicator of the political will to find a credible solution. The departure from Italy’s original Migration Compact is not a good sign. The New Migration Partnership Framework of the Commission replicates the same (ambiguous) “Investment Plan for Europe” scheme a.k.a Juncker Plan according to which an investment package of €60 billion would trigger and leverage (quite magically) investment in the “real economy” for €315 billion. The economic think tank Bruegel analyzed the Juncker Plan a year after the beginning of its implementation and noticed that: “since it got underway a year ago only €11.2 billion worth of projects have been approved, just over half of the target for the first year.”

It is, therefore, unclear how the New Migration Partnership Framework will actually benefit from “building on the experience of the successful Investment Plan for Europe.” In fact, the New Migration Partnership Framework announces resources for €3.1 billion for several African partners–against the €3 billion made available for Turkey alone in order to curb the contingency of the migration flows caused by the Syrian War–that are “expected to trigger total investments of up to €31 billion and the potential to increase to €62 billion.”

Vice Minister Giro is right in stressing the need of an holistic Europe-Africa agreement to create a win-win situation that focuses on investment in energy and infrastructure where European companies can play a key role as well as agri-business–a crucial area of development for the sustainable growth of the African continent and its security. In order to shape up a similar grand partnership, the real financial resources on the table have to be significantly increased.

The third important aspect of the departure from the Italian version of the Migration Compact is the re-emergence of the old-fashioned Western idea of providing financial resources with strings attached. African partners, instead, have to be empowered through co-ownership of the framework.

Imposing conditions to your counterpart is by definition not a partnership. Historically, this has been the approach included in the European aid policies. The “carrot and stick” approach evokes the paternalistic vision to provide funds in exchange of proof of performance–in this case the African partners’ ability to demonstrate to be able to curb the massive flows of migrants.

The effectiveness of the New Migration Partnership Framework is, however, extremely dubious when the mutual security of the EU and African counterparts is at stake. Moreover, it is not clear how long-term investment on strategic sectors such as energy and infrastructure could take place if the disbursement would be tied to periodic reviews.

The strongest answer in the aftermath of Brexit is implementing courageous policies instead of getting stuck with the usual techno-politics EU leaders got us used to so far. I hope the European leadership will surprise us with the necessary rush of pride and put the migration issue at the core of a new spirit of the EU.

All six foreign ministers of the founding members agreed on Saturday that Europe needs to do more to solve pressing issues like the migration crisis. The European Council that will take place tomorrow and Wednesday is the only golden opportunity to show the braveness that has been lacking to EU leaders for a long time now. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.



Comparative Politics Vol 2: Ease of Doing Business. Malaysia vs Italy

Malaysia ranks 6 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2014.

Source: The World Bank

Source: The World Bank


One of the key variables to make sure to become the location of choice of foreign investors is the ease of doing business. As you can see, one of the indicators in the table above is “Paying Taxes.” So let’s take tax incentives and regulations for instance, as I’ve had the opportunity to interview the CEO of the Malaysian Inland Revenue Board, Tan Sri Shukor.

In Malaysia it is possible to file taxes online, through an e-filing system. The e-filing system not only guarantees efficiency for the government and companies in terms of cost and time savings but it also ensures fair treatment to the public (for instance you can get tax returns within 30 days).

Moreover, in line with the government strategy to develop strategic economic activities (e.g. biotechnology industries, operational headquarters, international procurement centers, regional distribution centers, real estate investment trusts, treasury management centers, 4 and 5 Star Hotels in Peninsular Malaysia, private and international schools, provider of industrial design services in Malaysia, child care centers and pre-school education), international investors allocating resources in specific geographical areas or sectors enjoy tax holidays and don’t have to pay income tax for a certain number of years. Dividends are tax-free and companies willing to re-invest in R&D in Malaysia may be eligible to double-deduction.

Companies that are recognized with the Pioneer Status are eligible to a tax exemption ranging from 70 to 100%. In alternative, another tax incentive is the Investment Tax Allowance (ITA) for projects that imply long-term large capital investments.

The government has created a conducive ecosystem for business to thrive and the private sector aligns profit-making with innovation and socio-economic development. All the ingredients are there to make Malaysia an economic case study of excellence.

Italy ranks 65, after all European countries except for Greece, Romania, Czech Republic, and Malta.


If we don’t want to get stuck in this recession for decades this is definitely an area that we must reform. We need to simplify procedures and digitalize systems. This is also a way to cut public spending. Let’s get rid of red-tapes and reduce excessive costs (e.g. notary fees); a good idea could be to create a one-stop center for opening up a business where you take care of all paperwork/procedures at the same place. Should there be a need to communicate with different offices, this should be done internally and electronically.



Source: The World Bank



Source: The World Bank

Source: The World Bank


Let’s compare the “Paying Taxes” indicator. Besides the fact that our tax rate is equal to 65.8% of profits, while in Malaysia is 36.3%; the time and labor tax and contributions are 2/3 times higher in Italy than the average in OECD countries and Malaysia.

In Italy it takes 269 hours per year to pay taxes against 175 as an average of OECD countries and 133 in Malaysia. Labor tax and contributions stand as high as 43.4% in Italy. It’s 23.1% in OECD countries and 15.6% in Malaysia. How can we expect our unemployment rate to go down? It’s simply impossible for many companies to hire more workers with these labor costs.



Source: The World Bank

Source: The World Bank



Source: The World Bank

Source: The World Bank


In order to be more competitive in the global market we need to increase significantly what here is referred to as “ease of doing business.” Regulations must be simplified; procedures must be streamlined; and systems must be digitalized. A reform in this direction will not only attract foreign investors, but also help us cutting public spending.

Oh, and I almost forgot… English…Because nobody else speaks Italian besides us.

Comparative Politics Vol 1: Education. Malaysia vs Italy – Politica Comparata Vol 1: Istruzione. Malesia vs Italia






I’ve been working on a socio-economic report in Malaysia for a few months now. Malaysia has accomplished an incredible development since its independence from the UK in 1957. From 1970 to 2010 the level of poverty has decreased from 49,3% to 3,8% (see p. 53). The various governments have significantly contributed to the economic transformation from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one. The economic transformation is now set to make Malaysia a knowledge-based economy.

Political stability has been a crucial factor in the development of the long-term vision (from 1957 till today there have been 13 elections and 6 PMs whereas in Italy we’ve had 41 PMs’ alternations from 1946 up to today considering elections, cabinet re-shuffles, ‘coups within the Cabinet’ due to internal power struggles, and all sorts of other incomprehensible dynamics typical of Italian politics).

Here, the Government implements 5-year economic plans (i.e. the 10th Malaysia Plan currently underway). Back in 1991, the former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir launched his programme, Vision 2020, in order to make Malaysia a high-income country (the World Bank currently ranks Malaysia as an upper middle-income country).

There are many aspects that struck me positively. Above all the fact that everyone is conscious that in order to enjoy higher standards of living, the key variable to invest on is education. In 2011, the Government allocated 20.9% of the total public spending on education against 8.9% in Italy in 2010. If we look at other industrialized countries, the US allocated 12.7%; the UK 13.3; Norway 15.3%.

Universities here work hand in hand with industry in order to facilitate the access to the labor market. The Government supports financially all high-tech sectors that promote high-skilled labor and contribute to the economic transformation of the country. Due to steer competition from mid-value manufacturers such as India and China, Malaysia has taken a different direction by focusing on its comparative advantages (e.g. biotechnology considering the incredible biodiversity present in Malaysia) and investing heavily on technology and innovation (and by attracting FDI) thereby upgrading the value chain from mid to high-value added.

What about us? When is the last time we spoke about industrial policies (let alone five-year plans with investment targets, expected growth, and employment opportunities)? The complete absence of policies in our political debate is baffling as it is the lack of information and statistics. This is the website dedicated of the Economic Transformation Programme. It might be because I haven’t been in Italy for a while now, but I can’t remember anything like this in my country.

When are we going to understand that we have to focus on our comparative advantages? We have to realize that countries and entire regions that were excluded from the global market have now entered it as a consequence of globalization. The great majority of labor-intensive economic activities has moved where labor cost is lower. Trying to compete on a large scale on mid-value goods is a waste of time. So is seeking to get those jobs back. The inability to innovate and interpret the major socio-economic upheavals is what has brought Italy to a slow but steady decline.

How is it possible that in the country that boasts the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites (49) History of Arts – as a high-school discipline – gets cut down (or eliminated?) along with our permanent delegation to UNESCO? Of course I’m not saying that everyone should become either an artist or an art critic, but this is certainly an area that makes Italy unique in the world and that would create massive spin-offs in tourism and cultural economic activities.

Energy policy? Italy imports 79% of the energy it consumes. Considering how much we spend, we should be at the forefront in terms of R&D in renewable energy. Not only for strictly economic reasons, but also for strategic political ones (e.g. the consequences of Libya post-Gaddafi; and the Ukrainian conflict with Russia and the threat it poses in terms of gas supply to Europe). We could create, like in Malaysia, economic corridors in order to develop strategic economic areas with tax breaks, simplified regulations, and partnerships with universities in order to promote R&D and attract FDI, thereby creating high-skilled (and high-income) employment opportunities.

Lesson learned: the creation of a conducive ecosystem for innovative businesses starts from investments in education and R&D.    


Mi trovo da qualche mese in Malesia per sviluppare un report socio-economico sul Paese. La Malesia ha fatto passi da gigante dal 1957, anno della sua indipendenza dalla Gran Bretagna. Dal 1970 al 2010, il livello di povertà è stato ridotto dal 49,3% al 3,8% (vedi p.53). I Governi che si sono succeduti hanno contribuito significativamente alla trasformazione economica da una società agricola a industriale e ora “knowledge-based.”

La stabilità politica di cui gode la Malesia ha certamente contribuito allo sviluppo di una visione di lungo termine (dal ’57 ad oggi ci sono state 13 elezioni e 6 Primi Ministri contro i 41 avvicendamenti di Capi di Governo in Italia dal 1946 ad oggi, tra elezioni, colpi di palazzo, rimpasti, ribaltoni e altre denominazioni intraducibili e incomprensibili al resto del mondo).

Qui si fanno piani economico-industriali su base quinquennale (attualmente è in atto il 10th Malaysia Plan) e nel 1991 l’allora Primo Ministro Tun Mahathir lanciò il suo programma Vision 2020, una roadmap con lo scopo di far diventare la Malesia un Paese ad alto reddito (attualmente è classificato secondo la World Bank come upper middle-income).

Ci sono tantissimi aspetti che mi hanno colpito in maniera positiva (e spero di aver la possibilità di approfondirli in post futuri). Ma ciò che mi ha sorpreso maggiormente è che tutti sono consapevoli del fatto che per raggiungere migliori standard di vita, la variabile fondamentale su cui investire è l’istruzione. Nel 2011 in Malesia, la spesa pubblica verso l’educazione è stata del 20,9% del totale contro l’8,9% dell’Italia nel 2010. Se guardiamo altri Paesi industrializzati, gli USA investivano nel 2010 il 12,7%; la Gran Bretagna il 13,3%; la Norvegia il 15,3%.

Le università qui lavorano a strettissimo contatto con l’industria per favorire l’inserimento nel mercato del lavoro e il Governo sostiene finanziariamente tutti quei settori high-tech o che favoriscono lo sviluppo di high-skills che promuovono la trasformazione economica del Paese. Trovandosi a competere con colossi del settore manifatturiero di medio valore aggiunto (India e Cina), la Malesia ha intrapreso una direzione diversa, sfruttando i propri comparative advantages (per esempio nel settore della bio-technology data l’incredibile biodiversità) e investendo in maniera massiccia in tecnologia e innovazione (con incentivi per favorire l’entrata di investimenti stranieri diretti) che permetterà la trasformazione della produzione da medio ad alto valore aggiunto.

E noi? Da quanto non si sente parlare di politica industriale (figuriamoci di piani quinquennali con target specifici per quanto riguarda livelli di investimento, aspettativa di crescita e numero di posti di lavoro)? L’assenza di policies è a dir poco sconcertante nel nostro Paese e lo è altrettanto la mancanza di accesso a informazioni e statistiche. Questo è il sito che riguarda l’Economic Transformation Programme in atto in Malesia. Sarà che manco dall’Italia da un po’ ma non ho memoria di niente del genere. Soprattutto perchè manca la politica alla base.

E noi quando capiremo che per crescere economicamente dobbiamo concentrarci sui nostri comparative advantages? Dobbiamo renderci conto che la globalizzazione ha permesso l’entrata nel mercato globale di Paesi ed intere regioni che fino a poche decine di anni fa ne erano completamente escluse. Di conseguenza, gran parte dei lavori di tipo labor-intensive si sono spostati dove la manodopera costa una frazione di quella dei Paesi industrializzati. Cercare di competere in larga scala su questo territorio è tempo perso. Cercare di far “rientrare” quel tipo di posti di lavoro lo è altrettanto. La nostra incapacità di innovare, di interpretare gli sconvolgimenti globali a livello socio-economico ha portato al declino il nostro Paese.

Ma come si fa, nel Paese che vanta il più alto numero di siti Patrimonio dell’Umanità dell’UNESCO (49) a ridurre (o cancellare?) le ore di insegnamento di Storia dell’Arte e la rappresentanza permanente presso l’UNESCO? Questo non vuol dire (come molti bacchettoni italiani pensano) che “non possiamo mica tutti essere artisti o critici d’arte” ma di sicuro questo è uno di quei comparative advantages di cui sopra che rendono il nostro Paese unico al mondo e che creerebbero un immenso indotto tra turismo e cultura.

Politica energetica? L’Italia importa il 79% dell’energia che consuma. Noi dovremmo essere l’avanguardia della ricerca nel settore delle rinnovabili considerando quanto spendiamo. Non solo da punto di vista strettamente economico, ma anche politico, l’energia è strategica per non essere soggetti a shock esterni (si pensi alla Libia post Gheddafi e al conflitto russo-ucraino e le conseguenze sull’approvvigionamento del gas in tutt’Europa). Si potrebbero creare, come in Malesia, corridoi economici specializzati in settori strategici per l’economia con incentivi fiscali e regolamentari e partnership con le università per favorire la ricerca e lo sviluppo e attrarre investimenti esteri diretti creando così opportunità di lavoro di alta competenza (e alto reddito).

Morale della favola: la creazione di un ecosistema che favorisce lo sviluppo di attività economiche innovative parte da investimenti in educazione e ricerca e sviluppo

Shamelessly Treacherous

Image courtesy of Roberto Mangosi

Image courtesy of Roberto Mangosi

Newspapers announce another government crisis. This afternoon Berlusconi ordered to his Ministers to resign and they replied to their lord with a “Yes Sir.” Berlusconi knows the vote in the Senate will force him to relinquish his seat after his conviction for fiscal fraud this Summer. This is his last attempt to extort the President of the Republic a pardon, namely an act of clemency to forgive his crime; or to try to convince the Senate to save him by voting down the relinquishment of his seat.

To add insult to injury, we are witnessing for the umpteenth time Berlusconi and his political and news servants turning reality upside-down. For two months now, we’ve been listening over and over again that Berlusconi’s conviction was a product of Communist Judges trying to get rid of him with a sentence because of the inability of the Left to defeat him politically. Then- after Cassazione, the Court of third instance, confirmed the sentence of the Court of Appeal- we saw Berlusconi’s video message where he shamelessly stated in front of the whole country that he was innocent. Now MPs of Berlusconi’s party affirm that the reason they resigned is to avoid a tax increase that will occur starting from Tuesday. The tax increase, however, is a direct consequence of PdL’s (Berlusconi’s party) MPs refusal to sign a bill that would have avoided it yesterday.

It is unbelievable how these irresponsible MPs and their absolute master/owner mystify reality. Listening the Minister of Internal Affairs saying publicly that Berlusconi’s conviction and the subsequent relinquishment of his seat at the Senate is against the rule of law and that we now live in a judicial regime is outrageous. We are hostage of a certified criminal. In the rest of Western democracies parties such as PdL would not find place in the Parliament. Because of the subversive nature, PdL should be a mere extra-parliamentary force. In Italy, Berlusconi not only ruled the country for four (and a half, considering this grand coalition government with the Dems) times, but he also loves to define himself “the leader of the moderate conservatives.” Conservatives so moderate that do not want to comply with the rule of law; that pass bills ad personam to save Berlusconi from other trials; and let a country’s government collapse because they are unwilling and unable to survive without their political owner.

By the way, I started this blog during 2013 elections and it was clear since day one that this grand coalition would have been short-lived. In good faith or not, President Napolitano holds the majority of the burden of this failure. He accepted his second mandate as a result of a House of Cards-like Presidential elections with a clear idea in mind: facilitating the creation of a grand coalition. The whole political architecture built up by the President looked extremely weak and incapable of sorting out the huge Italian political, social, and economic challenges. This government should have simply been avoided. Berlusconi couldn’t wait to influence the daily political activity for his own interest and his MPs couldn’t wait to go along with their lord’s wishes. They have little, if any, political stature. They just repeat whatever the boss says, like parrots. No trace of deception in PdL, not even after the conviction. No sign of criticism to the line held by the supreme leader. Ever. Dems have no excuses. After twenty years, it’s no longer possible to believe in their good faith. Now that this new crisis erupted, they seem to fall from the sky. What the hell did you expect from Berlusconi?? He’s there only for his personal interest and he’s there with you as long as you save him. You don’t, you fall with him.

Krugman vs Alesina and the Italian Stalemate – Krugman contro Alesina e l’impasse italiano

What is the economic policy of the new Italian government? I bet no one can answer this question. On the one hand, the Democratic Party (PD)-or at least some of the ministers- emphasize the importance of cutting taxes on the labor market in order to boost employment. On the other hand, B (that just stands for Berlusconi since it’s hard to believe the existence of a structural party behind him) is obsessed with the repeal of IMU (a tax introduced by Monti on real estate). The problem is that PD and B are sitting at the same table, the Government. Both, however, stress the importance of maintaining the promises made to the EU (i.e. keeping the budget in order, whatever it takes) but at the same time say we need more investments to shake up the real economy.

Well, guess what? The two policies are mutually exclusive, especially in times of crisis. We either expand spending or we cut it. We either choose Keynesian economics or we go for Austerity. This choice mirrors the debate going on between Paul Krugman and Alberto Alesina, the first being of course the Keynesian and the second the Austerian from Bocconi. Krugman criticizes Alesina and Ardagna’s paper arguing that there is no evidence that spending cuts lead to economic expansion. In the Euro area, indeed, austerity has produced the situation in the graph below:

Alesina, in turn, replied Krugman saying “My paper has never claimed that every fiscal adjustment is expansionary. It just claimed that there have been examples in which some well-designed policy packages, based on spending cuts and other measures, have been associated with a positive impact on the economy.”

As I already pointed out in my previous post, the bottom line stays the same: it’s the boom, not the slump the right time for austerity. We all know how badly Italian governments have blown up taxpayers money for the past 30 years or more, and how much money ends up in corruption. I do believe there are sectors where spending must be cut (one example above all, eliminating provinces, a useless administrative layer that sucks money and makes our infamous bureaucratic system even slower).

Yet, do we really think that lying off thousands of people right now will help boosting our economy and keep our budget in order? With an unemployment rate at 11,5% and a big credit crunch, our priority is creating employment and this is why we need more spending now. The US went that way and they are getting out of this mess. We, in Europe, are falling even deeper into it.

So what is the incumbent government doing for our economy? Absolutely nothing. First of all because of its inherent weakness (Left and Right can hardly agree on what the recipe should be, assuming they have any idea about what should be done at all). Second, because we don’t have the guts (and the credibility, since the rest of Europe laughs at us seeing Berlusconi once again) to renegotiate the Fiscal Compact within the EU.

The priorities of our politicians are clearly different. While PD proposes to ban “movements” from running for the next elections (clearly targeting the Five Stars Movement), the Five Stars can’t discuss anything else than how much their own elected MPs should spend for lunch or dinner; B, of course, has a more compelling priority in times of crisis and proposes to halve the term of imprisonment for the people charged with association with the Mafia. This will definitely help restore our economy. 


Qual è la politica economica del governo Italiano? Scommetto che nessuno abbia una risposta a questa domanda. Da un lato, il PD⎯o almeno alcuni ministri⎯mettono al centro la questione della riduzione delle tasse sul lavoro al fine di sostenere l’occupazione. Dall’altro lato, B (perchè tanto è inutile di parlare di PDL dato che non c’è alcuna struttura partitica dietro di lui) è ossessionato con l’abolizione dell’IMU. Il problema è che PD e B sono seduti allo stesso tavolo, il Governo. Entrambi, tuttavia, sottolineano l’importanza di mantenere le promesse fatte all’UE (tenere i conti in ordine, a qualsiasi costo) ma allo stesso tempo dicono che abbiamo bisogno di più investimenti per dare una spinta all’economia reale.

Ebbene, indovina un po’? Le due politiche sono alternative l’una all’altra, specialmente in tempi di crisi. O aumentiamo la spesa o la tagliamo. O scegliamo una politica economica keynesiana o continuiamo con l’austerità. Questa scelta rispecchia il dibattito tra Paul Krugman e Alberto Alesina, il primo naturalmente rappresentante di Keynes e il secondo dell’austerità bocconiana. Krugman critica un paper di Alesina e Ardagna affermando che non ci sono dati empirici a testimoniare che tagli della spesa corrispondano a crescita economica. Nell’area euro, infatti, la politica di austerità ha prodotto la situazione del grafico qui sotto:

Alesina, allo stesso tempo, risponde a Krugman dicendo “Il mio paper non ha mai affermato che ogni misura fiscale porta crescita economica. Dice solo che ci sono esempi dove pacchetti politici ben strutturati, basati su tagli della spesa, hanno un impatto positivo sull’economia.”

Come ho già descritto in un post precedente, la morale della favola è sempre la stessa: il boom economico, non la recessione, è il tempo appropriato per l’austerità. Tutti noi sappiamo come i governi italiani abbiano sperperato denaro pubblico negli ultimi 30 anni o più e quant’altro denaro sia stato mangiato dalla corruzione. Anch’io credo che si debbano fare dei tagli (un esempio su tutti, le province).

Ma siamo sicuri che licenziando migliaia di persone proprio in questo momento di crisi possa aiutare la ripresa economica? Con un tasso di disoccupazione all’11,5% e in una situazione di ristrettezza del credito, la priorità è creare occupazione ed è per questo che dobbiamo aumentare la spesa adesso. Gli USA hanno preso questa strada e stanno uscendo dalla crisi. Noi, in Europa, ci stiamo sempre più dentro fino al collo.

Quindi, cosa sta facendo il nostro governo per l’economia? Assolutamente niente. Prima di tutto a causa della sua debolezza interna (Destra e Sinistra difficilmente troveranno un accordo sulla ricetta, ammesso che abbiano alcuna idea di cosa si debba fare). Secondo, perché non abbiamo gli attributi (e la credibilità, dato che ci ridono dietro in tutta Europa vedendo ancora una volta Berlusconi) di rinegoziare il Fiscal Compact a livello europeo.

Le priorità dei nostri politici sono chiaramente diverse. Mentre il PD cerca di mettere al bando i “movimenti” (ostacolando chiaramente l’M5S), l’M5S è tutto rinchiuso nella sua discussione su quanto debbano spendere per pranzo e per cena i propri eletti in Parlamento. B, naturalmente, ha un’idea ben chiara delle priorità del Paese e propone di dimezzare la pena detentiva per il concorso esterno in associazione mafiosa. Questo sì che aiuterà l’economia del nostro Paese. 

House of Cards-like Italian Presidential Elections – House of Cards non è niente a confronto di queste elezioni del Quirinale!

The Presidential election has been one of the most unbelievable moments in recent Italian politics. And that says it all already. Everything took place in a House of Cards scenario, filled with conspiracy and internal power struggles.

The Democratic Party (PD) had an apparently easy task, namely accept the challenge to vote for Five Star Movement’s candidate, Stefano Rodotà (a highly respected personality in Italian politics, who also “belongs” to the Left). This would have finally led to the convergence of  PD and Five Star Movement for the creation of a Government that the vast majority of Left-wing and Five Star Movement’s constituents have hoped for since the elections.

For the presidential elections, PD should have followed two simple principles: 1) pick a candidate that was not perceived to belong to the “old politics” (Italians are clearly fed up with old political executives seen as corrupt and detached from social problems); 2) find a candidate that could have been supported by Five Star in primis (and all other parties in secundis) thereby opening up for the creation of a “government for change.” Five Star, in practice, served PD the perfect candidate on a silver plate, in order to attempt this convergence.

We ended up, however, with the opposite: 1) it’s the first time in the history of the Italian Republic that an incumbent President is elected for a second term; 2) the convergence with the Five Star for a “government of change” is impossible under this President, and PD paved the way for another anachronistic, irrational, an despised government with Berlusconi, which is emblematic of the lack of will to change, and at the same time, represents the “pact for salvation of the Second Republic.”

But how did we get to this point? Why did PD opt for self-destruction during the election of the President of the Republic? It is true that the original sin is all in the hands of PD’s executive group and their idiotic choice of a candidate, Marini, in search for the formation of a government with Berlusconi, Monti, and the League of the North. Marini’s candidacy, obviously, divided the party internally and drove off SEL- the other party in the Center-left coalition that voted for Rodotà during all turns except the fourth, where it backed PD’s candidate Prodi. Unbelievable mistake.

At the same time, however, Renzi (the young PD leader that lost the primaries against Bersani before the elections) did not indicate a clear direction out of this mess. Renzi and his followers did not vote for Rodotà (like SEL did) and didn’t even indicate a strong alternative to Marini that could have followed principles 1) and 2) above by proposing, for example, Emma Bonino. Scalfarotto, an MP belonging to Renzi’s faction, said he did not vote for Rodotà because he was Five Star’s candidate and was selected through an online system of direct democracy that clashed against the principles of representative democracy. Nonsense. Actually, bullshit.

Rodotà was mentioned as a potential Prime Minister in case Bersani did not succeed in gaining the confidence vote in the Parliament (as he didn’t), and he’s also seen favorably by PD’s constituents, many other powerful members of PD, and the overall base of the party. Second, even if what Scalfarotto says is true, why didn’t Renzi propose a strong alternative for change (as Emma Bonino)? Why did they only divert their votes towards candidates that clearly wouldn’t have been supported neither by the rest of the party nor by the rest of the coalition, and not even by other political parties (see Chiamparino), to end up supporting Napolitano’s second term?

It seems clear to me that Renzi seized the day to strike the final hit to the old executives of the party, in a very Frank Underwood-type conspiracy. Prodi (PD’s candidate at the fourth turn, and founding father of PD) didn’t receive the necessary votes to be elected by various factions within PD and I suspect one of these, at least partially, is Renzi’s (although this is just my speculation, as the President is voted with a secret ballot). The unexpected result of the fourth turn shook up PD so hard that Bersani (the current leader) and Bindi (the PD’s national assembly leader) resigned. Renzi struck his target perfectly and landed a huge success (for his future position within the party). The political debacle, therefore, is not only a responsibility of PD’s old executives, but also young leaders that prefer to follow their own agendas within the party to gain power, instead of driving the forces of change for the Nation.

I believe this is probably the end of PD. The stigma of belonging to “old politics” and hamper change is now a label very difficult to shake off, despite the fact that the base of the party, the group of Young Dems, and many other powerful personalities within PD have declared themselves for Rodotà since the very beginning, and against any kind of deal with Berlusconi, Monti, and League of the North. Grillo comes out of these Presidential elections like a statesman (although he said Napolitano’s re-election was “a coup d’état”) and the Left turns out to be one more time a powder-keg. For the sequel, we have to wait for the second season of House of Cards.


Le elezioni del Quirinale sono state uno dei momenti più incredibili della politica italiana degli ultimi anni. Il che rende già l’idea della pazzia che abbiamo raggiunto. Il tutto si è svolto in uno scenario alla House of Cards- la celebre serie sulla politica americana con Kevin Spacey, piena di complotti e trame per la scalata al potere.

Il PD aveva un compito apparentemente semplice, raccogliere la sfida della candidatura di Rodotà e dare il via ad un governo di cambiamento. Il PD doveva seguire due facili linee di principio per questa elezione: 1) candidare qualcuno che non fosse percepito come appartenente alla vecchia politica, una figura di alto profilo; 2) trovare un candidato che potesse essere condiviso con l’M5S in primis (e tutte le altre forze in secundis), in modo tale da poter cercare la convergenza verso un governo di cambiamento. L’M5S, in pratica, ha dato al PD la pappa pronta.

Siamo finiti, invece, con l’opposto: 1) la prima volta nella storia repubblicana di una rielezione del Presidente della Repubblica; 2) il completo allontanamento dalla possibilità di un governo di cambiamento con l’M5S e l’apertura verso un’ anacronistica, irrazionale, odiatissima opzione di “larghe intese” o più palesemente “patto per la salvaguardia della casta”.

Ma come si è potuti arrivare a questo punto? Come è riuscito il PD ad autodistruggersi durante l’elezione del Presidente? Se a prima vista sembrava un errore madornale della dirigenza PD nel candidare Marini, la questione è molto più profonda. E’ vero che il peccato originale è tutto nelle mani della dirigenza che, completamente slegata dalla realtà, dalla base del PD e del Paese, ha spaccato il partito con la candidatura di Marini per cercare il consenso di PDL, SC e Lega alla ricerca di quel patto odiatissimo con il centro-destra. Errore gravissimo.

Allo stesso tempo, però, i giovani del PD non hanno dato segnali chiari di cambiamento. Non hanno preso una posizione netta o dichiarato di votare per Rodotà (come SEL) e nemmeno hanno proposto un’alternativa forte che seguisse i principi 1) e 2), per esempio proponendo Emma Bonino. Basta guardare ciò che scrive il renziano Scalfarotto su Huffpost. In pratica, afferma di non aver votato Rodotà perché era il candidato del M5S ed è stato votato attraverso un sistema, quello delle “quirinarie” apparentemente conflittuale col sistema rappresentativo. Si arrampica sugli specchi. Anzi, chiamiamo le cose per quello che sono: stronzate. Ammesso che quello che dice Scalfarotto sia vero, come mai i renziani, allora, non hanno proposto una candidatura alternativa nel segno del cambiamento, ma si sono appiattiti su candidature di circostanza (vedi Chiamparino) e hanno poi appoggiato la ricandidatura di Napolitano?

Mi sembra chiaro che Renzi abbia colto l’occasione per compiere l’ultimo assalto alla dirigenza PD, alla Frank Underwood in House of Cards. Prodi è stato impallinato da varie correnti e penso che, almeno parzialmente, i renziani non siano stati proprio così compatti come dicono nel votare Prodi. E il risultato è arrivato: le dimissioni di Bindi e Bersani. La debacle politica, quindi, non è solo responsabilità della vecchia dirigenza PD, ma anche dei giovani leader che seguono le proprie logiche e agende interne al partito, invece di farsi portavoce del cambiamento per il Paese.

Come molti, immagino che sia la pietra tombale per il PD. Lo stigma della casta è ormai marchiato a fuoco, nonostante la base, i Giovani Democratici ed altri esponenti di rilievo del PD si siano dichiarati fin dall’inizio a favore del cambiamento, contro qualsiasi ipotesi di accordo con PDL-Lega-SC. Grillo esce da queste elezioni come uno statista (nonostante abbia gridato al golpe in riferimento alla rielezione di Napolitano) e la Sinistra si è nuovamente polverizzata. Per il sequel, bisogna aspettare la seconda stagione di House of Cards.

E-democracy à l’italienne

Technology has permeated all social domains and dynamics. Politics has sheltered itself by hiding and erecting walls. Grillo has the merit of introducing the theme of the application of ICT to the political sphere. There are a lot of outcomes to this and also very significant- for instance, the role played by social media during the Arab Spring.

Do you remember the whole debate right before the elections because of the impossibility for a lot of Italians abroad (me included) to cast their votes? Well. A very simple e-voting system would have given voice to 25000 Italians. Is it possible that in 2013 we are able to send robots on Mars but we can’t make people express their votes via internet? In Estonia, the first e-voting took place in 2005. In Italy, in contrast, we are now starting issuing electronic IDs and I have to be fooled around- to use an euphemism- because the people that take a look at my current ID think that it’s a relic of some Eastern European former communist regime (no offense!).

That’s it? Not at all. E-democracy and e-government can be developed through several instruments whereby individuals can participate to public life. The Municipality of Florence, for instance, has done some steps forward with the introduction of statistics open source. Transparent-Gov is a far better example. The benefits are huge and include essentially a dramatic reduction of the administrative cost; an improvement in the accessibility of public services; and higher transparency in the management of public affairs. This is not little considering that our debt has passed the ceiling of 2000 billion euros and Italy ranks 72- along with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sao Tomé & Principe- for level of corruption according to Transparency International.

Platforms like Liquid Feedback, of which we hear talking a lot among the grillinis, allow the creation of referendums in real time. As the developers write, Liquid Feedback can be seen as a proxy voting system, namely giving the chance to individuals to delegate their votes to others. In the case of Liquid Feedback, representatives would act like proxies for groups of people by establishing a direct communicative channel thereby obtaining legitimization in real time for the decision to be made. E-democracy, therefore, has the potential to redefine the boundaries between representative and direct democracy.

Let’s take a look at the grillino movement. In my opinion, there’s a significant divide between the 5 Star Movement (M5S) and the diarchy Grillo&Casaleggio. M5S has the potential to drastically change the way we do politics in Italy- as it already happens in other countries with the Pirate Party (that also exists in Italy but it’s overshadowed by M5S). E-democracy and e-government can seriously become the emblem of the Third Republic. Personally, I don’t believe that the whole institutional structure could be replaced by “e-institutions.” This is because I don’t believe that representative democracy can be substituted by e-democracy. I’m very much in favor, however, to digitalize as much as possible public services and functions (e-government) and introduce instruments of direct democracy to complement the representative function (e-democracy). But I’ll look at this more in-depth in another post.

Let’s get back to the point. The gap between M5S and Grillo&Casaleggio. As long as M5S will be tied up to the diarchy it will not burst out all its revolutionary potential. Grillo points out how extraordinary the internet panta rei is, an in fieri mellifluous non-place where power means sharing and everything belongs to everyone. Rhetoric. The contradiction within M5S are huge and it only takes a second by looking at Grillo’s blog to realize it. Yes, his blog, because in Italy e-democracy belongs to a private citizen. Let’s take a look at the Non-Charter of M5S.

Article 1: “[…] The “Registered Address” of “5 Star MoVement” coincides with the web address www.beppegrillo.it. Contacts with the MoVement are assured exclusively through the email address MoVimento5stelle@beppegrillo.it.”

Article 3: “The name of the 5 Star Movement is a registered trademark in the name of Beppe Grillo, the only rightful owner for the use of it” (I did the translation myself, so it might not be 100% accurate). In the 7 articles of the Non-Charter, the reference to “Beppe Grillo” appears 8 times considering his name, email, and blog- without taking into account his name in the symbol and two references in each page’s footnote. It’s clear that Grillo claims the “ownership” of the concept of e-democracy. It seems like he’s yelling: “I invented e-democracy!” in an identification between the Subject and E-Democracy that results very scary.

Federico Pistono, a member of M5S, has released a video published by the Huffington Post where he explains that there’s no democratic decision-making process at national level. Other members, Sabetta, Barillari, and Festa have developed a proposal for an Electronic Online Parliament of the 5 Star Movement. Clearly, a lot of members denounce the funnel-shaped structure of the movement where gallons of inputs and ideas enter, but only filtered screams of the owner-non-leader-yet-only-spokesperson come out. I imagine that this internal contradiction on the central tenet of e-democracy will bring about big tensions within the movement. However, the turning point will still have a long way to go if many (maybe the majority of) the militants remain anchored to the idea of “they’re all crap, let’s send them home” and leave the direction of the movement to Grillo&Casaleggio. From this point of view, the M5S just resembles one of the many leader-centered parties. Otherwise, why then- unlike other countries- the promoters of e-democracy in Italy did not follow the model of the Pirate Party? I suggest to compare the pirates’ charter with the grillinis’. In my opinion, there are two simple reasons why the Pirate Party did not have the same success in Italy. First of all, M5S was born as a protest to the establishment and has aggregated a lot of people that belonged to the pirates’ constituency. Secondly, we are just not able to manage ourselves yet. Historically, in Italy people usually go for strong leaders, those who put their names on top of party symbols. And I think Grillo is just part of an old cycle that repeats itself in a revisited fashion.

And “traditional parties”? They’re literally stuck watching oblivious. It’s completely true that they have no idea of the importance of e-democracy. The M5S has established a new standard in doing politics that can’t be ignored. Political and economic reforms aside, the challenge for traditional parties is all about the epistemology of e-democracy and e-government.


La tecnologia ha ormai permeato quasi tutti gli ambiti e le dinamiche della società. La politica si è finora salvata, nascondendosi e trincerandosi. Grillo ha il grandissimo merito di aver introdotto in Italia il tema dell’applicazione dell’Information and Communications Technology (ICT) al mondo della politica. I risvolti sono molti e davvero significativi. Si pensi, innanzitutto, al ruolo che i social media hanno giocato nella Primavera Araba.

Vi ricordate tutto il casino scatenatosi alle elezioni di pochi giorni fa per gli italiani all’estero che non hanno potuto votare (me compreso)? Bene. Un semplicissimo sistema di voto elettronico avrebbe dato voce a 25000 italiani. Ma io dico, è possibile che nel 2013 mandiamo robot su Marte e non riusciamo a far esprimere un voto via internet? In Estonia, il primo e-voting è avvenuto nel 2005. Noi invece oggi stiamo iniziando a introdurre le carte d’identità elettroniche e io mi devo sentire preso in giro- per usare un eufemismo- perché coloro che vedono la mia carta d’identità pensano che sia una reliquia di qualche regime comunista dell’Est dell’Europa (no offense!).

Tutto qui? Nemmeno per sogno. L’e-democracy e l’e-government possono essere sviluppati con tantissimi strumenti attraverso cui ogni singolo individuo può partecipare attivamente alla vita pubblica. Il Comune di Firenze, per esempio, ha fatto dei passi avanti con l’introduzione di dati e statistiche open source. Un esempio ben più strutturato è quello di Transparent-Gov. I benefici sono enormi e si tratta principalmente di una riduzione significativa dei costi di amministrazione e di un miglioramento nell’accessibilità ed erogazione dei servizi nonché di un incremento di trasparenza nella gestione della Cosa Pubblica. Direi che non è poco considerando che il debito ha sfondato il tetto dei 2000 miliardi di euro e siamo al 72 posto- insieme a Bosnia Herzegovina e Sao Tomé & Principe- per livello di corruzione secondo Transparency International.

Piattaforme come Liquid Feedback, di cui tanto si sente parlare nei circoli grillini, permettono in parole povere di creare referendum in tempo reale. Come scrivono gli stessi sviluppatori, Liquid Feedback può essere interpretato come un sistema di proxy voting, ovvero la possibilità di delegare il proprio voto ad un altro soggetto. Il meccanismo del proxy voting esiste già in diversi Paesi e in diverse forme. Nel caso di Liquid Feedback, il rappresentante agirebbe come proxy di un gruppo di persone stabilendo un canale comunicativo diretto e ottenendo legittimazione in tempo reale per le scelte da intraprendere. L’e-democracy ha quindi il potenziale di ridefinire i confini tra democrazia rappresentativa e democrazia diretta.

Guardiamo ora un attimo al movimento grillino. Il mio punto di vista è che ci sia uno scollamento significativo tra M5S e la diarchia Grillo&Casaleggio. L’M5S ha il potenziale per imprimere davvero una svolta rivoluzionaria nel fare politica in Italia- come già accade in altri Paesi con il Partito dei Pirati (che esiste anche in Italia, ma è nell’ombra a causa dell’M5S). La Terza Repubblica italiana può davvero iniziare all’insegna dell’e-democracy e dell’ e-government. Personalmente non credo che tutto l’assetto istituzionale possa essere sostituito da “e-istituzioni”. Questo perché non credo che la democrazia rappresentativa possa essere sostituita dalla e-democracy. Sono però favorevolissimo a digitalizzare quanto più possibile servizi e funzioni pubbliche (e-government) e introdurre strumenti di democrazia diretta per complementare la funzione rappresentativa (e-democracy). Ma approfondirò questo tema in un altro post.

Torniamo al punto. Il gap M5S-Grillo&Casaleggio. Finchè l’M5S non si slegherà dalla diarchia, il suo potenziale rivoluzionario non si sprigionerà. Grillo discute di quanto sia straordinario il panta rei della rete, un non-luogo mellifluo in fieri dove il potere è condivisione e tutto appartiene a tutti. Retorica. Le contraddizioni interne all’M5S sono enormi e basta guardare il blog di Grillo per rendersene conto. Sì, il suo blog, perché l’e-democracy, in Italia, è di proprietà di un singolo privato. Prendiamo il Non-Statuto dell’M5S.

Articolo 1: “[…] La “Sede” del “MoVimento 5 Stelle” coincide con l’indirizzo web www.beppegrillo.it. I contatti con il MoVimento sono assicurati esclusivamente attraverso posta elettronica all’indirizzo MoVimento5stelle@beppegrillo.it.”

Articolo 3: “Il nome del MoVimento 5 Stelle viene abbinato a un contrassegno registrato a nome di Beppe Grillo, unico titolare dei diritti d’uso dello stesso.” Nei 7 articoli del Non-Statuto, il riferimento a “Beppe Grillo”, tra nome, blog e email, appare 8 volte- senza contare i riferimenti nel simbolo dell’M5S e due altre volte per ogni pie’ di pagina. E’ evidente che Grillo rivendichi la “proprietà” del concetto di e-democracy. Sembra un altro dei suoi strilli a mo’ di Pippo Baudo “L’e-democracy l’ho inventata io!”, in un’identificazione tra Soggetto e E-Democracy che non può che far paura.

Federico Pistono, membro del M5S, ha rilasciato un video pubblicato da Huffington Post, in cui spiega che in realtà non c’è alcun processo democratico di decision-making nel movimento a livello nazionale. Altri esponenti del M5S, Sabetta, Barillari e Festa, hanno messo su una proposta di Parlamento Elettronico Online del Movimento 5 Stelle. E’ chiaro che molti denuncino la struttura ad imbuto del movimento, dove entrano litri di input di idee ed escono spruzzi di urla filtrati dal proprietario-non-leader-ma-portavoce-unico del movimento. Questa contraddizione interna sul concetto cardine dell’e-democracy immagino porterà grandissme tensioni all’interno del movimento. Se, però, molti (forse la maggioranza) dei militanti rimarrà ancorata all’idea del “fanno tutti schifo, mandiamoli tutti a casa” lasciando in pratica la direzione del movimento a Grillo&Casaleggio, allora la svolta non ci sarà. Da questo punto di vista, M5S mi sembra una replica di uno dei tanti partiti leaderistici. Altrimenti perché in Italia, a differenza degli altri Paesi, i promotori dell’e-democracy non hanno seguito il modello del Partito Pirata? Suggerisco di fare un confronto tra i documenti costitutivi dei pirati e quelli dei grillini. Secondo me i Pirati non hanno avuto lo stesso successo in Italia per due semplici motivi. Uno, M5S è nato principalmente come protesta all’establishment e ha aggregato molta gente nel bacino dei pirati. Due, non siamo ancora capaci ad autogestirci. Storicamente in Italia ci si affida alla figura del leader forte, quello che mette il suo nome sul simbolo del partito. E penso che Grillo sia solo parte di un vecchio ciclo storico che si ripete in maniera rivisitata.

E i “partiti tradizionali”? Stanno letteralmente a guardare. E’ verissimo che non hanno la minima idea della portata dell’e-democracy. L’M5S ha segnato un nuovo standard nella politica di tutti i giorni e non può essere ignorato. Riforme politico-economiche a parte, la sfida dei partiti è tutta sul terreno epistemologico dell’e-democracy e dell’e-government.