mercoledì 12 dicembre 2012

Financial Times contro Monti

Mentre in Italia si continua a piangere la prematura dipartita del governo Monti, altrove le cose vanno diversamente. Vero, tutti o quasi i giornali internazionali hanno criticato il ritorno di Berlusconi. Ma alcuni hanno anche apertamente applaudito alla dimissioni di Monti, i cui risultati sono giudicati negativi (ed a ben ragione!). Dopo che nei giorni scorsi avevamo visto come anche nella comunità finanziaria non si apprezzassero i nostri 2 Mario, oggi proponiamo un articolo del Financial Times, a firma Wolfgang Muchau - tedesco ed esperto di Europa - che attacca apertamente Monti.
L'articolo si può anche trovare in italiano presso Keynesblog, dove si trova anche la traduzione di un recente post di Krugman contro Monti (ed anche un articolo del Telegraph)

Politics have burst the Monti bubble

Two things need fixing in Italy, both of which are beyond the scope of the technocrats
The announcement by Mario Monti that he intends to resign as Italy’s prime minister tells us two things: politics is intruding, and the crisis is getting worse again.
I have always respected Mr Monti as a European commissioner and a wise observer of European affairs, but I am more sceptical about his performance as Italy’s head of government. The sometimes uncritical adulation he enjoyed was based on the notion that you could solve Italy’s problems by putting politics aside, imposing a few reforms and a lot of austerity. The consensus in Italy was that only a technocratic government could deliver these policies.
The Monti magic seemed to work for a while – much longer than I had expected. The yields on Italian 10-year bonds dropped about 200 basis points during his term because investors, desperate for good news, wanted to believe the magic.
But Mr Monti’s year in office has been a bubble, which felt good for investors while it lasted but has deflated. And it will probably take Italians and foreign investors not all that long to realise little has really changed over the past year, except that the economy has fallen into a deep depression.
There are now two things that need fixing in Italy, both of which are intensely political and beyond the scope of technocrats.
The first is to reverse austerity immediately – essentially to undo Mr Monti’s work. The tax rises and spending cuts are having a counterproductive effect. By reducing both debt and growth, the debt-to-GDP ratio has increased in the short term and I doubt that it will fall by much in the long run. The deterioration in Italy’s debt sustainability will become much clearer next year, as we get more statistical evidence of the calamitous effect of austerity.
The effects are already being felt before the 2013 budget kicks in. The tax burden on Italian families almost doubled this month – a result of the introduction of a new property tax system – which has had the immediate effect of killing off the pre-Christmas retail business. Confcommercio, an association of service companies, estimates a consumption fall of 13 per cent.
The second priority is to stand up to Angela Merkel. This was something Mr Monti was unwilling – and incapable – of delivering. He tried a bit of grandstanding at the European summit in June, but he never managed to confront the German chancellor on the one issue that mattered: that without some form of debt mutualisation – a eurozone bond – it was hard to see that a country with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 130 per cent and virtually no growth could remain a member of the eurozone, and keep on rolling over its debts for ever. Only an elected leader is in a position to force a choice. A technocratic prime minister cannot be expected to produce a credible counter-threat if the answer is no.
I am often asked what Germany would do if confronted with the choice between a eurozone bond and an Italian departure. I believe that Berlin would blink first in such a stand-off. The reason Mr Monti was so popular in Germany is because his bubble and his austerity played into the chancellor’s hand of delaying hard decisions on debt resolution and institutional reform beyond next year’s German elections.
Is the required type of leader in sight? Pier Luigi Bersani, the recently elected leader of the Democratic party, is clearly not that man. He is part of the conservative wing of the centre-left that is supportive of Mr Monti’s austerity and less supportive on structural reforms – the worst combination.
Matteo Renzi, the young mayor of Florence who lost to Mr Bersani, would have been a more likely candidate to bring self-confidence back to Italian politics. But with the latter on top and his party firmly ahead in the polls, I expect the establishment will now try to fashion him as the next safe pair of hands, the man most likely to inflate some air back into the bubble.
Another possibility is a return of Mr Monti as a campaigning politician, and candidate for a centrist alliance.
What about Silvio Berlusconi, whose return to frontline politics is what triggered the impending departure of Mr Monti? He will not become prime minister. Italians have had enough of him, though he still enjoys some residual popularity among the right.
But as useless and comic as Mr Berlusconi may have been during his last term in office, his diagnosis of Italy’s problems since he left has been spot-on. Italy needs a new deal in the eurozone, he has said, adding that even a departure should not be treated as a taboo. And he has said repeatedly that austerity is not working. He should have said that when he was prime minister.
The outcome of the election is further complicated by the role of the anti-euro Five Star Movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo, which has maintained second place in the polls for some time.
The best outcome for Italy would be a political leader who forces the issue of Italy’s future with a clear-headed sense of what choice the eurozone and the country will need to make. Otherwise, Italy risks being pushed into a position like that of Greece, which pursued similar policies and has no choices left.


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