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Italy’s new leader must satisfy home and abroad

Stephen Beard Nov 14, 2011
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STACEY VANEK-SMITH: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi resigned over the weekend. He’s been replaced by economist Mario Monti. Monti has started to form a new government that will hopefully help lead Italy out of its economic crisis. Monti has to answer, not only to Italian voters, but to some financial constituents as well.  Stephen Beard has more.


STEPHEN BEARD: Here’s how one group celebrated the fall of Berlusconi. They sang the Hallelujah Chorus outside the Presidential Palace. Author Beppe Severgnini says this may be a moment of relief for many Italians but hardly one of national pride.

BEPPE SEVERGINI: Berlusconi was voted out of office by foreigners …by the IMF in Washington, by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. So people are celebrating because they’re saying: someone else did our job because we couldn’t do it.

Berlusconi quit on Saturday after the parliament passed a package of public spending cuts following a week of turmoil in financial markets. Mario Monti is an economist who’s never been elected. He is now putting together a government of other non-politicians. He cannot start work soon enough for lawyer Giovanna de Maio:

GIOVANNA DE MAIO: I hope on Monday morning he will begin to do what in last ten years no-one was able to do for Italy — cut the waste.

But cutting waste — and trimming Italy’s $2.6 trillion dollar debt load — won’t be popular in every quarter. Monti will have to tread on toes. To promote growth, he’ll have to take on protected and privileged groups, especially in the labor market. James Walston of the American University in Rome:

JAMES WALSTON: There’s a huge divergence in the Italian labour market between the privileged few who do have jobs for life and the rest — the young people and not so young — people who’ve never had a steady job and probably never will.

Monti is likely to be sworn in on Wednesday. A general election must be held by early 2013. The fate of the Monti government will depend on foreigners, — investors and European officials. They brought him to power. They’ll now decide how long he lasts.

I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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