Wednesday, August 17, 2022

“Valley of tears”: political crisis adds to the plight of Italians | News on the coronavirus pandemic

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Rome, Italy – Paolo Bianchini didn’t pay much attention to the 35 changes of government that took place during his lifetime – until this year.

Bianchini, 44, owns a restaurant in Viterbo, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the capital, Rome.

But the company he has owned for 20 years is hanging by a thread, as s32 billion euros ($ 39 billion) in support measures for activities ravaged by the pandemic have been suspended again, this time The Italian government fell on Tuesday.

The resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has plunged the country into further chaos.

Italians are generally able to ignore government friction, the norm in a country that has gone through 66 coalitions since World War II.

But this time the political crisis occurs during a global pandemic.

The national psyche is already deeply marked by the epidemic, which has claimed 86,000 lives and led to a brutal economic recession.

“The situation is no longer sustainable,” said Bianchini, who is also president of MIO, a hotel industry association. “We don’t even have the money to buy food for our children… it really threatens the social fabric. [of our society]. “

Protester holds sign reading ‘Liars’ during protest by business owners against restrictive measures put in place to fight coronavirus infections (COVID-19) [Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters]

The drama

Conte resigned after small but important coalition partner Italia Viva – led by Matteo Renzi – withdrew his support of the government.

During a hectic week, the once little-known lawyer failed to persuade other MPs to join his ranks and form a stronger parliamentary majority, prompting him to resign.

Now President Sergio Mattarella is consulting with all parties to determine if Conte, or anyone else, has the numbers to form a new coalition.

If this is not possible, a technocratic government could be an alternative. Otherwise, the Italians will have to return to the polls.

The two ruling parties, the Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Star Movement – which joined a weak alliance only 17 months ago – are eager to avoid such a scenario, as polls suggest the extreme party League right could lead the electoral race.

Since Wednesday, political parties have strategically forged and broken alliances in the corridors of power.

Meanwhile, thousands of restaurants and cafe owners staged a three-day protest in the streets of Rome against ongoing social distancing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

“We don’t need a different government, we need measures,” said Alessandro Berardi, 38, who opened a new restaurant in the northwest town of Rapallo in May 2019. So far , received 4,000 euros ($ 4,860) from the state.

At the end of January, her savings are exhausted.

Anger is simmering in other areas as well.

“It’s a valley of tears,” said Mauro Rossetti, 47, one of the founders of Easyfit Gyms, a network of sports centers in Rome.

His business was worth five million euros ($ 6 million) two years before the pandemic.

With gyms closed since the end of October, Rossetti has lost between 70 and 75% of his income.

His company received 6,000 euros ($ 7,290) in public funds – “a joke,” Rossetti said.

On Thursday, he was forced to lay off 220 employees.

A sign reading ‘I open’ is placed on a restaurant door as owners open their businesses to the public as part of an ongoing nationwide protest against curbs. [Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters]

No governance

A transitional government could adopt measures related to the coronavirus emergency, but without governance its work should be hampered.

In addition to the billions waiting to be allocated to businesses in need, questions are growing about the effects of the crisis – and whether Italy has the capacity to make good use of the 209 billion euros (254 billion dollars ) that it should receive from the European Union.

Flavia Terribile, economist and chair of the OECD Regional Development Policy Committee, said technical meetings between the European Commission and the Ministry of the Economy were underway.

“But you need a government and a political guide to select the goals and object priorities,” she said. “And a political crisis shortens the time to draw up and negotiate a good plan with the regions, local authorities and civil society to revive the country.”

‘A problem of trust’

Experts say the political crisis can worsen feelings of disenchantment, fear and uncertainty, and could lead to further unrest and political divisions.

“There is a problem of trust between political demand and supply,” said Nicola Pasini, professor of political science at the University of Milan.

“Even those who were supposed to dismantle traditional power centers, but are now part of them,” he said, referring to the Five Star Movement.

The populist party won the 2018 election with 32% of the vote, intercepting a large section of the electorate unhappy with the traditional left and right parties.

Today, the popularity of the movement is much lower – less than 15%.

“As a hotelier, I wonder how can they (politicians) be so far from the real problems of the country,” said Pierpaolo Biondi, who owns a hotel near the Sicilian town of Taormina, a tourist center before the pandemic, and who is president of the local branch of Federalberghi, the national association of hoteliers.


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