In addition to the tangle of legislation in Italy there are layers of rules and regulations laid down by ministers, administrators, regions, enforcers and the like; rules and regulations that have come into effect by executive order rather than through parliamentary process and, in most cases sit like a dead hand over initiative, progress and freedom. And they keep coming. A colleague in small business laments, ‘They have squeezed the life out of it.’
A good place to start the reform agenda would be the establishment of a Law Reform Commission or Administrative Review Commission. Such a Commission should be well resourced with competent lawyers and sector specialists and be charged to go through the Italian statute book with some fundamental principles engraved over its door.
The Commissioners would ask questions like these:
- What is/was the purpose of this law?
- Is it still relevant?
- Does it hinder or restrict economic freedom?
- Would we enact it today if it was not on the books.
Submissions from the public would help guide a Commission towards areas of most community and business concern – entrenched privilege, protection and distortion.
In order to ensure that the work of the Commission is not pigeon holed by vested interests a mechanism should be found for its reports to be adopted by default. This would mean the reports would be adopted in their entirety, without the need for complementary legislation unless both houses of parliament disallowed specific sections.
In this way, vast tracts of dead-letter laws and unnecessary or conflicting legislation and regulations, would be reviewed, considered for appropriateness to current circumstances and either confirmed or repealed.
A nation will never earn respect or have self-respect without confidence in its judicial system. The Rule of Law must be enshrined and respected and executed without fear or favour. Justice must be timely. The law cannot be, or be seen to be, there for any particular class or sector of the community. For this reason a Commission of this type should start with a review of the Italian judicial system.
Another useful step would be the wide use of ‘sunset’ legislation. This simply means that a law has a finite life after which it lapses unless specifically confirmed by parliament. This ensures issues do not go off the table forever and that laws are reviewed for their relevance to current circumstances.
One of the key arguments in the election held in the United States revolved around tax and the role of government. The Democratic Party stands for increased government intervention and increased taxes, at least from some sections of the population. The Republicans argue for smaller government and tax cuts funded by the increased tax revenues that would flow from having millions more people in jobs, paying taxes and not drawing welfare.
Which argument will prevail? If the Republicans fail the US will inevitably follow Europe down in the deficit/debt spiral.
The same debate should be argued in Italy. Strong leadership could put it to Italians that everybody would be immensely better off if a sensible tax regime were in place, bureaucracy and other barriers to freedom of economic activity, along with deep seated graft and corruption were wound back.
Lower Taxes and Reduce Evasion
A strong leader would be promoting Italian competitiveness with the prospect of lowering the rate of IVA (VAT); a lower IVA reduces the tendency to avoid it just as lower tax rates reduce the effort to avoid them. A simpler system could bring enormous benefits to the Italian economy, create millions of jobs, provide opportunity for the young and restore the powerhouse that Italy could be.
Imagine a scenario where regions were competing against each other using attractive labour laws, competitive tax rates and ease of doing business. Competition between regions would be good for Italy, forcing efficiencies and increasing productivity. Capital and labour would follow good, sound, progressive government. It could be a better formula than blanket cuts forcing austerity and gloom across the regions.
A more active and better-resourced Guardia di Finanzia – Italy’s financial police – may be necessary to support a new compact but if it can be effective in exposing and prosecuting cheats the message will get through. A strong leader would be arguing that if we give you a fair system, we expect you to play fair and you must accept consequences if you choose not to.
The election results in Sicily may offer a pointer. The election of an anti-mafia party and the collapse of the Berlusconi vote indicate people are restless for change.
Italians Need Inspiration
Italians need to be inspired again; they need to be told they can achieve greatness again. This is the country of Michelangelo and Leonardo, of Marconi and Agnelli, of Gucci and Prada, of Puccini and Pavarotti, of Fellini and Bertolucci of four World Cups. Will this and the next generation pick up the challenge?
Who will accept the mantle of leadership in Italy?
If you missed them, read the initial two parts of Stephen Lusher’s analysis here:
By Stephen Lusher
Stephen Lusher served five terms in the Australian Federal Parliament. He worked around the fringes of politics before setting up Lush on Bondi, a trendy bar on Sydney’s Bondi Beach.
Frequent trips to Italy led to an inevitable love affair with Tuscany. He and his wife Cathy sold up in Sydney and purchased Il Mulinaccio in 2008.
Within two months of moving to the Chianti Hills he was diagnosed with throat cancer. The experience led to him re-focusing his life and priorities. After a few uncomfortable years he thinks he has it beaten.
Stephen’s interests include wine, food, history, culture and travel.
He struggles with the Italian language and indulges himself in some occasional writing.