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Mario Draghi Has A Plan For Italy

Mario Draghi is certainly not new to public speeches, yet this time he admitted feeling emotional: “I’d like to tell you that, in my long professional life, there has never been a time of such intense emotion and such ample responsibility,” he said in the house of the Senate yesterday, on the occasion of his introductory speech as Italy’s new prime minister.

Draghi, former ECB chief and president of Bank of Italy, was called by Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella to take lead after a political crisis brought Giuseppe Conte to resign from premiership last month. After a number of consultation rounds, Draghi was able to form a “national unity” government that brings together the majority of the political forces in the country, from the Democratic Party to Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, far-right League and the Five Star Movement. A mix of political and technical ministries are supposed to shape the investment strategy of the “Next generation EU” funds, a €750 billion plan that the EU has dedicated to relaunch the Union outside of the pandemic, out of which €209 billion ($260 billion)  are going to Italy alone.

“Unity today is not an option but a duty,” Draghi said at the end of his speech, mentioning “love for Italy” as the most uniting principle on which to join forces. Draghi, who is supported by 61% of Italians, received 21 rounds of applause during the 55 minute speech, where he illustrated his priorities to get Italy out of its crisis. 

“The main duty to which we are all called, myself in the first place as prime minister, is to fight the pandemic with every means and to safeguard the lives of our fellow citizens,” Draghi said at the beginning of his speech. Currently, Italy has about 12,000 new cases per day and 369 deaths; the contagion trend is on the rise and among the first decisions the new government is going to face is whether to opt for new lockdowns in the next weeks. 

Draghi is aware of the special conditions under which the new government was formed: “It was said and written that this government was made necessary by the failure of politics. Allow me to not agree with this. Nobody is taking a step back from their identity; if anything, they take one forward, in an unprecedented perimeter of collaboration, to give an answer to the country’s needs, to get closer to the daily problems of the families and firms that know well when it is the time to work together, with no prejudices or rivalry”. 

Specifically, Draghi made a reference to the current time as an opportunity to rebuild from the foundations, the same way it happened after the second world conflict: “As it happened in the postwar period, today we have a possibility, even a responsibility, to give way to a new reconstruction. With pride and determination, Italy lifted itself up from the disaster of World War II and, thanks to investments and work, it paved the way for the economic boom. But above all, it did so thanks to the belief that the future of the following generations was going to be better for everyone”. 

Under these auspices, the program that Italy’s pm foresees for the country aims, above and before everything else, at paving the way for future generations. “This is our mission as Italians: to give a better and fairer country to our children and grandchildren. I’ve often asked myself if we, and I am talking above all about my generation, have done and are doing for them all that our grandparents and parents did for us, sacrificing themselves completely. It is a question that we need to ask ourselves when we do not do everything necessary to best promote our human capital, our education, school, university and culture”.

Young people appear to be a clear priority in the prime minister’s mind. Support for the European Union is another basic principle in the government’s action: “Sustaining this government means sharing the irreversibility of the choice of the euro, it means sharing the perspective of an increasingly integrated European Union, which will get to a common public budget, able to sustain countries during recession periods”.

For Italy, the first and most pressing issue is to develop and implement a fast and effective vaccination plan: “We need to mobilize all the resources we can count on, resorting to civil protection services, the armed forces and many volunteers,” the prime minister said. 

This also entails a health system reform – “The central issue is to reinforce and redesign the local health system, building a strong network of basic services […] and relying on hospitals for health emergencies and rehabilitation services,” he said. 

School was mentioned among the first areas to focus on, a sign of the importance the topic has for Draghi: “Not only we need to swiftly go back to a normal school time, but we need to do everything possible to recover the time lost over the past year,” he said. Academic research covers an equally important role – “it needs adequate investment,” Draghi pointed out – as well as the environment, to which the prime minister dedicated a deep thought, referring to the words of Pope Francis: “Natural tragedies are the response of the Earth to our mistreatment. And I think that if I were to ask God what he thinks about it, I don’t think he would tell me that it is a good thing: it was us who ruined God’s work”. 

The environmental transition is one of the key axis of the European investment strategy, a theme that Draghi is well-aware of. “Also in our country certain growth models will have to change,” he said, this also applying to specific sectors that are going out of market: “The choice between which activities to safeguard and which ones to accompany toward change is the difficult task that the economic decision-makers are going to have to face in the next months,” the pm said.

In order, the other interventions that Draghi as prime minister intends to focus on are: gender parity (“the deployment of all of the country’s energies in its restart cannot go without the involvement of women”, he said), public investment (especially in Southern Italy), and a number of reforms, starting from a tax reform based on the Danish model (meaning through the involvement of a commission of experts to work on a comprehensive plan), a public administration reform and a judicial reform.

In the field of foreign relations, Italy will be “decisively EU and US-oriented,” Draghi said. “The advent of the new US administration foresees a change in method toward more cooperation with Europe and traditional allies,” he added. Italy’s presidency of the G20 this year is going to represent an opportunity to “Build back better,” which appears to be a reference to Joe Biden’s program.

Finally, Draghi sent a clear message to political forces about the need to work together: “This is the third government in a single term. Nothing suggests it can do well without the staunch support of this Parliament. This support is not based on political alchemies but on the willingness to make the sacrifices that women and men have undergone over the past year, on their quivering desire to be reborn, to come back stronger and on the enthusiasm of those young people who want a country that is able to make their dreams come true. Today, unity is not an option, it is a duty. But it is a duty guided by what, I am certain, unites us all: love for Italy”.

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