Rigore is one of Mario Monti’s watchwords.
The Italian prime minister’s target is the public debt, which at 120% of gross domestic product (GDP), is deemed unsustainable. And in order to reign it in, local and regional, as well as central government must adhere to extremely strict budgetary rules.
For example, they cannot just spend profits from municipal enterprises, even to reinvest them in services for the community.
But oddly enough such rigore does not extend to proceeds of privatisation. If you flog local public services to privateers, that’s different. Local administrations are free spend this income as they see fit.
An inbuilt disincentive to running efficient public services, you could say. And a massive incentive for privatisation, especially at a time when local government is facing a triple budget whammy of cuts to central government funds, lower local tax revenues and growing pressure on services.
As Bari mayor Michele Emiliano (Democrats) put it over the weekend: ‘We are forced to sell public enterprises, the family jewels. It’s an expropriation in reverse. It’s a national disgrace.’
Mass privatisation, or expropriation of public wealth for private gain, is of course the plan.
In its (initially) secret letter last summer to the then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the European Central Bank stated that ‘the full liberalisation of local public services and of professional services is needed. This should apply particularly to the provision of local services through large scale privatizations.’
The ECB’s orders were duly followed by Berlusconi – who budgeted an additional Euros 500m ‘incentive’ fund for sell-offs – and his successor Monti. The final touches of legislation are now awaiting parliamentary approval due by mid-March.