Governing will not be easy
A Gazprom analysis argues that even if the major European countries manage to bring gas stocks “close to the maximum level” allowed by the storages, this “will not guarantee them to get through the autumn-winter without problems”. An example: between October 1, ’21 and March 31, ’22, Germany consumed 57 billion cubic meters of gas, or 9.5 billion per month. Current stock levels – 84% of storage and 18.3 billion cubic meters – “are comparable to consumption for two out of six months in the winter season”.
Western sanctions were supposed to accelerate Russian default and bled the Putin regime dry, take away its means for the Ukrainian war, unleash popular discontent against it and eventually hasten its downfall. According to the IMF, it is not going that way: in Russia, the GDP decline in 2022 will be 6%, not 11%.
However, according to the rating agency Fitch, the EU “has a credible strategy to mitigate the worst effects of a stop to gas imports from Russia in 2023, conditional, however, on rapid adjustments to the supply-demand balance”, and is able to “withstand the Russian gas crisis” though “not without pain”. For Fitch, the “adjustment process will weigh on the Eurozone economy and firms less severely than some preliminary estimates made in the market”. Under a scenario of 20% flows for 2022 and a stop in 2023, Fitch estimates a negative effect on EU GDP of 1.5-2%, 3% on Germany and 2.5% on Italy. Also in Cernobbio, the traditional sentiment survey of business leaders in attendance underscored a strong concern. For the majority of the Cernobbio audience (39%), the impact of rising energy costs on business performance will be significant. 17% call it very serious and 20.3% as serious. Finally, alertness about expectations for price increases in the next 12 months will be highest for 21.1% of those present, but on average the sentiment is high alertness and concern.
All this is to say that governing Italy in the coming months will not be easy. Especially thinking that the perimeter is one marked by the resurgence of the pandemic and galloping inflation, settled around 8.4%.
The election campaign so far has mainly been a succession of chatter, more ideological than programmatic in nature, which, among other things, seems not to have affected the potential volume of abstentionism (especially widespread among young people). The Rimini Meeting, which has already closed, and the Cernobbio Forum, from Friday to Sunday, are the first real opportunity for a more analytical confrontation on the main problems affecting big industry, the world of work, small and medium enterprises, families and even foreign interlocutors. The latter have become interested in the phenomenon of “Meloni”, the leading candidate at the moment for the presidency of the Council. And if in August Pravda from Moscow criticized her Atlanticist positions, from Venice Hillary Clinton pointed to her positively as a much-needed breakthrough figure.
The attention of the Financial Times is also on Italy, as evidenced by the British newspaper’s analysis at the end of August, in which it raised fears about our financial system, aggravated by very high public debt, against a backdrop marked by political instability in an international context of severe crisis.
Governing, therefore, will not be easy. This is beyond doubt. It would help to have a strong continuity with the good things done by the Draghi government, which is why Meloni seems to be already moving forward, cultivating “good offices” and constructive collaborations with the outgoing Prime Minister (some are even talking about possible future retention of some Ministers from the current government in case of a Fratelli d’Italia victory). And a solid majority would also be useful, for which a lot of votes are needed. And perhaps this is also why the leaders are contending for the younger electorate, the one currently most undecided and listless. They have found the channel: it is Tik Tok. Now it will have to be seen how they will use it, because what makes the difference is not talking to young people, but talking like young people.