A New State

Like so many others, on Monday, September 16, 2013 I watched a team of skilled Italians conduct the largest ever salvage operation with almost childlike astonishment.

After the tragic near-shore sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise liner, Micoperi – the venerable marine contracting firm based in Ravenna – achieved the unthinkable, by turning the 114,000-ton ship upright and alleviating the picturesque stretch of the Tyrrhenian coastline from the burden of human folly.

As I watched the feat unfold from my television, I couldn’t help but notice there were number of boats in the water that were overseeing the safety of the operation. Not just the Italian Coast Guard, but also the country’s Guardia di Finanza, State Police, Carabinieri and Navy. Different entities with different captains, organizational levels and standard operating procedures. It was clear this operation required complex coordination.

But I found myself wondering why there couldn’t have been just one military body – the Coast Guard presumably – to direct the ship’s crucial rotation.

Each entity has specific strengths and duties, of course, and complex emergencies demand that they coordinate with each other. Just consider the ongoing humanitarian coordination efforts that are required to rescue migrants off the southern coast of Sicily. Finding a way for these entities to work together more effectively would lead to greater efficiency and hefty cost reductions, thereby channeling resources to where they are needed most.

We should conduct a similar review of our judicial system along these same lines.

The Italian administrative tribunals do little to work closely with the authorities and courts that are conducting civil and criminal investigations. I would argue that Italy’s judicial system – and ultimately the Italian people – would stand to benefit from greater effectiveness and lower costs by streamlining the judiciary’s structure and doing away with several tribunal presidents.

Mere months after celebrating Micoperi’s engineering feat, we watched the less miraculous, largely recalcitrant political process that ushered in Italy’s Stability Law. The country’s political leaders, who were voted into office by the Italian people no less, sought to find a solution to problems with income redistribution, the legal system and austerity. But instead, they tightened the taxation belt to an oppressive degree with little hope for future relief.

Even while Italy’s economic growth remains stagnant, political leaders continue to make promises they cannot keep.

The government has seemingly lost its ability – and its will – to make effective democratic decision-making. Instead, it has evolved over time as an ineffective bureaucracy that hinders Italy’s standing as a credible player in the global economic marketplace.

For many years during his career at Banca d’Italia, Fabrizio Saccomanni, who was the Italian Minister of Economy and Finance, and Daniele Franco, the State General Accountant, criticized the outdated structure of our State. They were particularly scornful of its overlapping bureaucracies and unnecessary checks on decision-making. However, they now both find themselves in the awkward position of proposing measures that they know cannot solve Italy’s endemic and multiplying problems.

To get us moving in the right direction, Italy must be redesigned from the inside out – that includes its police force, public administration and economic development policies. Italy must construct a new State that is shaped by the beliefs of its people who are thirsty for justice, and rejects a political system in which officials increasingly take advantage of their authority. We need a new State that focuses on serving its people rather than feeding the egos of elected officials. We need a new State that streamlines the inevitable bureaucracy for the good of people and businesses alike.

I have deep respect for Italy’s founding fathers. But since our country’s unification, the world has changed irrefutably and we must have the courage to change with it. To do this, we must first rebuild the very foundations of our State. Only then will Italy meet the needs of its people and secure its rightful place in an increasingly competitive global economy.

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