Perché il Financial Times chiede a Berlusconi di andarsene

Molti commentatori (l’ho fatto io stesso) hanno dato notizia dell’editoriale con cui anche il Financial Times (non un quotidiano comunista, mi pare) chiede a Berlusconi il famoso passo indietro. Vale forse la pena, però, di riflettere sul fatto che l’invito non è uno sfogo emotivo (noi ne avremmo ben d’onde, un osservatore britannico probabilmente no) ed è basato su analisi e considerazioni che vale la pena di conoscere.

Cito pertanto alcuni passi prima dall’articolo di analisi degli esiti del G20 per quanto riguarda l’Italia (Berlusconi brushes off debt crisis – FT.com), e poi dall’ormai famoso editoriale. Dei corsivi mi assumo io la responsabilità: servono ad attirare la vostra attenzione sui passi salienti.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, said on Friday that he had refused the offer of an International Monetary Fund loan to his indebted country, arguing that Rome did not need one even as its borrowing costs remained at near-unsustainable levels.

During meetings on the sidelines of a summit of world leaders in Cannes, Mr Berlusconi instead agreed to accept highly intrusive IMF monitoring of his government’s promised reforms – an unprecedented concession by a eurozone country that has not received a bail-out.

Yields on Italy’s 10-year bonds surged to euro-era highs after Mr Berlusconi said he had declined the offer of a low-interest IMF loan. At 6.4 per cent, they are near the level at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal were forced into IMF-European Union bail-outs. Italy must refinance €300bn ($413bn) in borrowing next year.

The rise in borrowing rates came despite reports from traders that the European Central Bank was purchasing Italian bonds to try to drive yields down. The ECB has bought an estimated €70bn in Italian bonds since panicked selling began in August.

“Italy does not feel the crisis,” Mr Berlusconi said after the G20 summit of industrial powers. He described the Italian bond sell-off was “a passing fashion”, adding “the restaurants are full, the planes are fully booked and the hotel resorts are fully booked as well”.

Qui permettetemi un commento. Il Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri (e gli mettiamo tutte le maiuscole di cui i nostri burocrati amano decorarsi, come i generali di galloni e le signore di giri di perle) non dovrebbe limitarsi a riportare aneddoti sull’affollamemnto di alberghi, ristoranti e crociere (peraltro non di prima mano, evidentemente), ma avrebbe il dovere di consultare le statistiche ufficiali prodotte e diffuse con i quattrini del contribuente (l’Istat è finanziato dal bilancio statale per oltre 150 milioni di € all’anno, se non ricordo male). D’altra parte un’analoga considerazione per la statistica pubblica l’aveva dimostrata il ministro dell’economia Giulio Tremonti in un intervento pubblico all’assemblea della Confcommercio nel giugno del 2009:

Ma torniamo la Financial Times:

[…]

Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, said she had not offered Italy a loan – known as a “precautionary credit line” – but other officials familiar with the deliberations in Cannes told the Financial Times that Italy had urged to accept as much as €50bn in assistance.

Senior European officials had hoped Mr Berlusconi’s acceptance of intensive IMF monitoring would return calm to the Italian bond market. Several said they believed Italy’s reform programme would improve the economy but feared that markets doubted the prime minister’s ability to implement them.

“The problem that is at stake, and that was clearly identified both by the Italian authorities and its partners, is a lack of credibility of the measures that were announced,” Ms Lagarde said […].

[…]

The addition of IMF monitors, who will publish quarterly reports on Italy’s progress, makes the mission almost identical to so-called “troika” teams of Commission and IMF evaluators who conduct reviews of the eurozone’s three bail-out countries.

E adesso alcuni estratti dall’editoriale (In God’s name, go! – FT.com):

The similarities between the two prime ministers [Papandreou e Berlusconi] are striking: both men rely on a thin and shrinking parliamentary majority and they are both squabbling with their own ministers of finance. Most importantly, they both have a dangerous tendency to renege on their promises at a time when markets worry about their countries’ public finances. There is, however, one important difference: having reached €1,900bn, Italy’s public debt is so high that its potential to destabilise the world economy is way above that of Athens.

The good news, of course, is that Italy is still a solvent country. However, the interest rate on its debt is becoming ever less sustainable. The spreads between Italian and German 10-year bonds have doubled over the summer. Yesterday, they reached a euro-era record of 463 basis points and would have probably been higher if the European Central Bank was not buying Italian bonds. Although Rome can sustain high interest rates for a limited time period, this process must be halted before it becomes unmanageable. Next year Italy has to refinance nearly €300bn worth of debt. As the eurozone crisis has shown too well, once spreads have risen, they are extremely difficult to bring down.

The most troubling aspect is that this is happening even as Italy has agreed, in principle, to the structural reforms recommended by Europe and the G20. That the International Monetary Fund will monitor Rome’s progress can only be a good thing. However, this risks being undermined while the country retains its current leader. Having failed to pass reforms in his two decades in politics, Mr Berlusconi lacks the credibility to bring about meaningful change.

It would be naive to assume that, when Mr Berlusconi goes, Italy will instantly reclaim the full confidence of the markets. Clouds remain over the political future of the country and structural reforms will take time before they can affect growth rates. A change of leadership, however, is imperative. A new prime minister committed to the reform agenda would reassure the markets, which are desperate for a credible plan to end the run on the world’s fourth largest debt. This would make it easier for the European Central Bank to continue its bond-purchasing scheme, as it would make it less likely that Italy will renege on its promises.

After two decades of ineffective showmanship, the only words to say to Mr Berlusconi echo those once used by Oliver Cromwell.

In the name of God, Italy and Europe, go!

Il riferimento a Oliver Cromwell, che sfugge a quasi tutti coloro che non sono inglesi o non hanno studiato la storia britannica, è al discorso che tenne nel 1653 per chiedere lo scioglimento del Parlamento (il “Rump Parliament“):

You have been sat to long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of god, go!

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