Italy’s task force to beat the coronavirus

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The latest stone of scandal in Italian politics is the orgy of task forces and commissions of experts that erupted with disconcerting ease in the shadow of the pandemic emergency. It’s about an army of consultants resembling a veritable midget Parliament of non-elected specialists that has relieved both houses of Montecitorio and Palazzo Madama of their respective constitutional prerogatives. To use the words of the spiteful criticism, it’s like a small personal Senate for use and consumption of the Prime Minister and the leadership vacuum that grips the ruling coalition during the worst Italian crisis since the end of the Second World War.

The result is that about a decade after the controversial Monti government the health emergency has brought a technicians comeback in Italy, with all due respect to politics superiority and with great pleasure of the anti-establishment and populist component of the current ruling coalition – namely the M5S, which fought for years with the aim of disarming the Italian party-political caste.

To defeat COVID-19, Italy has thus deployed phalanxes of optimates raging from fake news hunters to champions for women’s rights, from robotic experts to virologists of all kinds. Which is nothing bad for a nation with solid institutions and a ruling class worthy of the name. But for a country that has been struggling for a long time in a series of unresolved social, economic, institutional, demographic and industrial crises, the backward step of politics sounds like a sinister omen.

The latest dream team is also the most prestigious, with 17 experts from several disciplines under the orders of Vittorio Colao to trace Italy’s route out of the crisis, establishing how, where and when it will be possible to re-start the country. What is certain is that for the proper functioning of the complex device, the political control room will count more than the excellent curricula or individual skills. Unless you wanted to incur in unpleasant communication short circuit and harmful overlap of competences, to relieve yourself from the burden of responsibility and failure.

Proof of this are the bewilderment expressed by Colao’s experts for Lombardy headlong rush on ways and times of the reopening, or the row erupted between the components of the Data drive task force of the Innovation Minister Paola Pisano on movement control of infected people. Another striking example of the conflict between the commissions of experts concerned the vital task of finding face masks, with the Commissioner Domenico Arcuri on a collision course with the General Director of the Customs Agency Marcello Minenna. Moreover, if the sleep of reason produces monsters, the silence (or impotence) of politics understood here as “art of governing” explains clearly the various organizational guidelines followed in the last few weeks by the three Italian regions most affected by the health emergency.

A sign of an increasingly manifest detachment process between the center and the peripheries of Italy. Veneto chose to make “carpet swabs” from the very beginning and despite the indications of the central government and WHO, in order to isolate and identify the infected. The rich Lombardy ended up being overwhelmed by the events and reacted through maximum hospitalization, as far as possible. Emilia-Romagna was working more discreetly to try to isolate the areas most affected by the virus right from the beginning. The uncontainable desire for local autonomy was also reflected in the plethora of task forces set up by regional governors – at least thirty of them – to face the emergency more closely and not be less than Rome. Lazio, for example, deploys LazioLab and the Speed task force, Tuscany a team dedicated to therapeutic innovations, Campania a symposium of 14 experts plus the managers of the local health authorities.

Meanwhile, the country lives with messianic expectation the approach of May 4 or more likely the next decree issued by the Prime Minister, expected around April 20. With the current head of Assolombarda (the powerful Milanese branch of the industrial association) as well as designated president of employer’s association Confindustria Caro Bonomi who never misses an opportunity to attack the Italian ruling class for not knowing what to do to defeat the virus, manifesting all the disaffection of a vital part of the country towards its rulers.

In short, the pressure on the Prime Minister is very strong, also due to the winds of crisis in the ruling majority on the European bailout fund ESM and the need to arrive with a shared position coalition partners at the crucial April 23 EU Summit. On that occasion, Italy will seek the unselfish French support to obtain the creation of a common debt instrument with which to finance the economic recovery. With all due respect to the Babel of experts who advise the government on how to manage Phase Two and the Italian meaningless discussions that we are so passionate about.