martedì, luglio 06, 2004

A Man for all Ministries

I was amazed to hear that Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser said after Monday's meeting of EuroZone Finance Ministers: "Berlusconi is ambitious ............................. we trust him."

With all the too-ing and fro-ing of the last week, where Italian Minister of the Economy, Giulio Tremonti, left the multi-party Italian Government - or did it leave him, I wonder - and il Presidente del Consiglio, Silvio Berlusconi, bravely stepping into the breach and taking on the job himself - as well as being il Presidente del Consiglio of course - it has been interesting here in sunny Italy as well.

There is much speculation on exactly how it was that Giulio Tremonti came to resign his post as Minister of Economy though. There is certainly a substantial school of thought which considers he was pushed out into the cold by the actions of Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Alliance, Gianfranco Fini. Although, that of course is purely speculation - of course.

Naturally, we all realise that Silvio cannot stay on as Finance Minister - as well as Prime Minister - and head of Fininvest, etc. and still perform any of these jobs without actually killing himself in the process. So, Mario Monti, current EU Competition Commissioner, is tipped for the job - soon.

Which brings us back to the comment by Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser about Berlusconi.

It was actually in response to Berlusconi attending the meeting of Finance Ministers in order to state the case for Italy and convince the EU that Italy were, indeed, going to achieve the EU requirement of bringing the Italian budget deficit to withing 3% of the Gross Domestic Product - currently standing at 3.2%.

Perhaps the fact that both France and Germany have also exceeded the EU requirement, without incurring any penalty so far other than the wrath of the other Member States that actually did achieve the targets, has helped Italy here though. It would be exceedingly difficult to justify fining Italy for breaking the same targets that France and Germany have already done.

I was interested to see that the departure of Tremonti has brought to a halt the tax cuts that Berlusconi had been promising though. Do I smell a scapegoat being prepared for slaughter there?