Game Over Berlusconi? Italian Anti-Crisis Bill Fails
Europe's core, call it Germany, is now caught in a war of reverse attrition on three fronts: with Greece, with Italy, and as of today, with France. And unfortunately for the European monetary union, Europe, call it Germany, is losing. While the focus continues to be on G-Pap for the second day in a row following his shocking referendum announcement, the real diversion remains Italy, where the government is in as much of a state of chaos as that in Athens, and whose bonds, while not yet trading at Greek levels (remember when the Greek 1 year hit 100% two months ago? Today it is at 225%... and tomorrow the two year will be at 100%), are far, far greater in amount, and the only thing preventing their collapse so far has been the ECB, whose monetizing assistance has been contingent on Italy passing and enforcing austerity measures to deal with its runaway debt to GDP of over 120%. Unfortunately, when BTPs open for trading in 7 hours, the ECB bid may not be there, or any bid for that matter, because as the WSJ reports, "Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday failed to issue growth-boosting measures demanded by European Union authorities ahead of the Group of 20 summit, raising further doubts about the government's willingness to pass economic reforms aimed at restoring investor confidence in the country." Now that the ejection of Greece is virtually certain, perhaps it would be a prudent idea for what little remains of the healthy European core to kick out all the stragglers before everything becomes infected, and before French bonds trade at yields indicative of a sub-IG credit, thus ending the myth of any European union for good?
Here is what Bunga has achieved so far:
Mr. Berlusconi's cabinet late Wednesday approved a plan to sell state property, slash red tape and roll out infrastructure projects, according to people familiar with the matter, in a bid to cut Italy's €1.9 trillion ($2.6 trillion) debt and revive economic growth.
The plan, however, does not include measures to address the chronic structural weaknesses—such as heavy labor regulation and high taxes—that European officials and investors blame for Italy's economic stagnation, the people said. That means Mr. Berlusconi will head to the Group of 20 in Cannes, France, on Thursday without concrete measures to assuage the concerns of EU leaders.
We use the term achieve very loosely as he still has to pass it through parliament. And for now, all signs point to no:
It is also unclear whether Mr. Berlusconi can muster the political support to pass in parliament the meager plan approved Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Italian officials drafted a government decree that would have implemented the measures with immediate effect, said the people familiar with the matter. By the time Mr. Berlusconi's cabinet convened in the evening, however, officials had shelved the draft. Mr. Berlusconi's foot-dragging is likely to erode support for his government and increase tensions with Italy's head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, who has called for immediate reforms and wields the power to dissolve parliament.
On Wednesday, Mr. Napolitano held meetings with lawmakers across the political spectrum to see if Mr. Berlusconi's majority has the political support to push tough reforms through parliament.
Analysts interpreted the meetings as a sign that Mr. Napolitano might throw his support behind lawmakers who have called for a government of technocrats to replace the premier.
A referendum for everyone: first in Greece, next, in Italy.
"The technical government option is what I think everyone, except Berlusconi, wants," said Duncan McDonnell, an political analyst at the Florence-based European University Institute.
Granted, Italy, unlike Greece, just may pull a deus ex. But bond investors will likely not stick around to find out.
Investors are shunning Italian bonds, concerned the country's rising borrowing costs will make it nearly impossible for it to pay down its debt, which is currently equivalent to 120% of GDP.
And to think it was precisely one week ago that Europe got bailed out. Here is how Italian banks have fared since the day we said only idiots will believe the "bailout" for more than a few hours.
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