Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Farewell, Economist?

There's a palpable sense of pre-Xmas anxiety on the streets of Rome this week. And it might have to do with The Economist. In this week's issue, the Economist published a bruising 18-page analysis of Italy entitled "Addio, Dolce Vita." (Farewell, Dolce Vita).

In it, the paper, a notoriously harsh critic of Berlusconi, sums up the country's myriad problems in numbers: zero growth + zero competition = little hope. There's nothing new in this assessment, but the analysis paints a sobering picture: Italy is a country operating under a 19th Century economic system of small, independent companies barely able to compete with cheap Chinese products and materials, and it is paralyzed by an unwillingness to privatize national assets, a move that has proven so successful in other EU dynamo countries like Spain and the former Baltic countries. On top of all this, politicians and govt ministers are obstructionist and protectionist. And, don't get me started on Bank of Italy governor Antonio Fazio, a man who's only redeeming quality amid his scandalous record of patronage and backhanders is that he goes to church every day. The Economist, if you're wondering, let the Catholic Church off the hook entirely in this article. Barely a mention, in fact.

Now, to the anxiety. Turns out the Economist this week is an awfully difficult mag to locate. (A general strike on Friday has fouled up the mail system; my copy finally came yesterday). Still, neither of the two nearby news stands near my apartment have it this week. And, my Italian teacher, also a harsh Berlusconi critic, says it took her a few days to find the magazine after she canvassed nearly the entire Prati neighborhood. She, for one, thinks something's amiss. Has Berlusconi bought up all the available copies and thrown them in the Tevere? Are their confiscated stacks at border stops and airports? E voi a Milano, Firenze, Genova, Venezia? C'e Economist?

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