quinta-feira, 21 de fevereiro de 2013
Risco de instabilidade política na Italia
Bom artigo do FT sobre o risco de instabilidade política como consequencia do resultado das eleições na Italia.
After 15 months in which direct democracy was in effect suspended in Italy by the appointment of Mario Monti as unelected technocrat prime minister, the country finally goes to the polls on Sunday and Monday to choose his successor.
The outcome is the most unpredictable since Silvio Berlusconi, then the entrepreneur anti-politician, burst on to the scene in 1994 after the collapse of the postwar order amid the chaos of the tangentopoli – “bribesville” – scandals. Snowstorms in parts of Italy, which is holding its first winter election, are adding to the sense of uncertainty.
With the country stuck in its longest peacetime recession in living memory, the level of public anger against the establishment is arguably greater now than ever, with the next parliament likely to be highly fragmented, making for unstable government.
Discontent driven by the perception of an elite that has immunised itself from the pain of austerity borne by the rest of the nation, coupled with fresh scandals exposing the corrupt nexus of politics and business, means all the old-guard parties – across the political spectrum – are likely to poll fewer votes than at the last elections in 2008.
Morgan Stanley, the financial services group, calls the elections a “crucial risk event”. In broader terms it could lead to the most important test of the European Central Bank’s resolve since its president, Mario Draghi, said last July he would do “whatever it takes” to save the euro through an as yet untested bond-buying programme.
Debt markets, which have sustained yields on Italy’s 10-year bonds at close to their lowest levels in two years, are betting that specific country risk will continue to be suppressed by the promise of aggressive ECB intervention if needed. Nicholas Spiro, a London-based sovereign debt analyst scouting out officials in Rome this week, sees the election as a “glaring example of disconnect between market sentiment and country fundamentals”.
Gross domestic product fell for the sixth consecutive quarter in the last months of 2012, posting a worse than expected contraction of 0.9 per cent and taking output back to levels last seen more than a decade ago. Imports have plummeted. Industrial production is some 25 per cent below where it was in 2009. But unlike Spain, there has been no internal devaluation in this recession, with Italy’s unit labour costs actually rising.
In 2011 investors misjudged the political resolve of European leaders to fix the sovereign debt crisis. This time they may be underestimating the risks posed by Italy’s fundamentals, which could still lead to a restructuring in some form of the country’s €2tn of public debt, at 126 per cent of GDP the highest in the eurozone after Greece.
Strong, stable government will be needed to continue the reform process put in place by Mr Monti’s technocrats, and to argue in Brussels for more growth-oriented policies and a possible relaxation of fiscal deficit targets.
However, the worst-case scenario emerging from these elections is a centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democrats unable to reach a majority in the Senate even if supported by Mr Monti’s small group of reform-minded centrists.
Polls indicate that the centre-left will take the lower house, where a majority premium is guaranteed for the largest party or coalition.
But it is a different story in the Senate, where the premium is awarded on a regional basis. A surge by the anti-party and eurosceptic Five Star Movement and a comeback by Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition promising lavish tax cuts could lead to a hung parliament – depending on the outcome in four big regions where the result is too close to call.
The leftward tilt of the Democrats under Mr Bersani, a pragmatic former communist who is juggling opposing forces within his coalition, is likely to lead to fraught negotiations over forming a government that would include Mr Monti.
But it is Mr Monti’s credibility on the international scene that Mr Bersani needs if Italy is to end the austerity era imposed by the former economics professor and move towards the bolder, tax-cutting growth agenda that both men espouse to varying degrees.
Italy has a long record of weak and fragmented coalition governments, with more than 60 administrations since 1945 – a fact noted by rating agency Standard & Poor’s in its assessment that important reforms to boost growth would lose momentum if no clear winner emerges on Monday night. History risks repeating itself. Investors and Europe are on notic