Tuesday 20 February 2018

Not a single politician in Italy's new government

James Mackenzie and Barry Moody

NEW Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti surprised Italians and the markets yesterday when he formed a new technocrat government which does not include a single politician.

President Giorgio Napolitano swore in a 16-member government , including three women, at his palace yesterday afternoon, ending a chaotic political crisis that has placed Italy at the centre of the eurozone's problems.

The new government now has the urgent task of tackling a broader crisis that has pushed Italy's borrowing costs to untenable levels and brought it to the brink of economic disaster.

Speaking after presenting his cabinet to the president, Mr Monti said: "We feel sure of what we have done and we have received many signals of encouragement from our European partners and the world."

The appointment of the widely respected former European commissioner to replace flamboyant media magnate Silvio Berlusconi has brought relief in eurozone capitals.

Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel values Mr Monti very highly, her spokesman said in Berlin, adding that she was ready to meet him. Many world leaders in contrast tried to keep clear of Berlusconi, notorious for off-colour humour and diplomatic gaffes.

Mr Monti, a respected economics professor and former European commissioner, said he would take the crucial economy portfolio himself.

Corrado Passera, chief executive of Italy's biggest retail bank Intesa Sanpaolo, was given the infrastructure and industry portfolio.

Some analysts say Mr Monti's decision not to include any politicians could make it more vulnerable to ambushes in parliament as it pushes through unpopular measures. But Mr Monti said it would strengthen the government by enabling it to avoid political disputes and press ahead with vital reforms.

"The absence of political personalities in the government will help, rather than hinder, a solid base of support for the government in parliament and in the political parties because it will remove one ground for disagreement."

He said he would present an austerity programme to the senate today. This is expected to be followed by a confidence vote in both houses of parliament.

Control

Commentators generally welcomed the ministerial line-up and Mr Monti's decision to take the economy portfolio.

"He obviously wants to be in control of what is clearly the most critical area," said Riccardo Barbieri, chief European economist at Mizuho bank.

Mr Monti said the government's success depended on explaining what tough austerity measures to the public.

The process is being closely watched by markets still nervous about Italy's ability to break out of a crisis centred on its huge public debt and painfully slow growth, despite the weekend resignation of Mr Berlusconi, who failed to pass crucial reforms.

Mr Monti has said his government should last until the next scheduled elections in 2013.

Irish Independent

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