The Sopranos Are Alive And Well
All that glitters is not gold. Especially in tax. I am torn between “Italy Confirms Tax Cuts,” which sounds clear enough, and “India Will Enhance Tax Administration,” which is indeed much needed. But this is just another Committee: it is a rule of politics that when you can’t work out what to do about a given situation, or if what you would like to do will upset too many of your supporters, then you appoint a Committee of the great and good to think about it for two years before telling you that they can’t think of what to do about it either. So that leaves us with Italy. Mr Renzi looks nice, doesn’t he? I would happily have dinner with him, and I might even agree with some of his ideas, especially if he feeds me enough Tuscan Red. The trouble is, he doesn’t have any money. I don’t mean that he couldn’t afford to buy me a glass of wine, fussy as I might be. I was reading an article today in a well-known daily newspaper which used to be produced in Paris (and now you know which one) dealing with the disaster of Italian railways as an example of the long-term failure of the Italian state to improve the efficiency of public services and stimulate regional enterprise. They said that EUR550bn had been spent on trying to lift up the Mezzogiorno (south of Italy), and it now lagged even further behind the North than when they started. Don’t tell me; that’s where I have a cottage, and I love the fact that it’s like living in the 19th century. But we know who got the money, don’t we? The Sopranos. The railways are important as a particularly glaring example of how money has been spent heedlessly without the smallest attempt to improve efficiency, but with a careful focus on maintaining or even increasing employment. Last week I took a taxi from Bari to my local town, and the taxi-driver sat in wonder as a man (of course a man) emerged from his cottage to crank up the barriers on his level-crossing and allow us to pass. On average, it’s about 13 minutes to wait at that level-crossing, on the main road to Taranto, from beginning to end. You learn to carry a newspaper with you. “I’ve never seen that before!” he said in amazement. What with the Sopranos and the Unions, Mr Renzi is between a rock and a hard place. I don’t know what will cure Italy, but it’s not Matteo Renzi, for all his good intentions.