Three centuries in a month and moving forward: #Italy, #EU, and #COVID19 - 7. Balancing national and local constituencies

7. Balancing national and local constituencies

Articolo 5)

Art 5 of the Italian Constitution is about the balance between central and regional and local government, also if we had to wait until this century to see it implemented.

Many are criticizing what happened, on both sides of the divide.

Frankly, I think that, from a bipartisan perspective, it reminds me what I observed over a decade ago, when Italy, after 9/11, did try to do "live" exercises in case we had a terrorist attack.

When I was living in London, by chance after my Sunday roast lunch, while walking back home via Bank, I ended up in the middle of an exercise, and heard that it wasn't the resounding success with minor glitches that was later claimed.

Actually, a scene within the movie "Dirty War" (about a dirty bomb attack on London) reminded me what I had observed.

But it was one of the first ones, then I expected that to improve.

Something similar occurred in Italy, when, while arriving nearby Genoa, for an exercise Italian drivers did not behave as expected: I saw cars going in reverse gear on the highway, etc.

The issue: if you deliver powers that are never used, you need to train, exercise, test, tune, if you want the capabilities to be available and useful when needed.

Otherwise, tribal concerns imply that nobody takes any initiative that could affect its constituents unless (s)he is confident that is really needed.

Within the Italian political system, the civil service is frankly seen as a transmission belt for political parties- you win, you place your people.

Then when you lose the elections... most of your people are still left in, so, whoever wins, needs to find way to insert new people.

In that article discussed specifically what was happening in Turin, Piedmont, were I lived back then.

I have a long list of documented examples of local incompetence, public and private, but I shared some of them on Facebook, the point for the current article is simpler: we need not just to streamline rules, structures, or entertain yet another shuffle of competencies between national and local or regional power centres.

We need to revise and split the spoils system between a political side (it is appropriate that a new political majority will have its own political program to implement) and a "structural" side.

And the latter would need to be provided resources to keep in prime shape what are critical capabilities.

I do not share current criticism on past cuts to the national health system or its privatization.

As I shared online over the last few weeks, if we had had all the ICUs and associated specialist staff that we have now, sitting idle for years, our cost cutting tribunes would have, as in the past, launched fatwas against waste within the health services.

If we were to split between "political" and "structural", then we could do capacity planning on at least few layers: now, on demand, phase-in, etc.

Or: the minimum that is needed, the resources that are in reserve and can be activated (implying: on which time delay, and how often they have to be recalled to check that they and their equipment are still operational), etc.

You can turn in days a production line into one delivering ICUs, probably.

But you cannot convert in two days a family doctor into an anaesthesiologist or pneumologist.

Yes, we have to revise some privatizations- no surprise that in most regions half or more of the budget goes to regional healthcare: it is a fair assessment to say that each hospital, or each private clinic can be a political reservoir of votes.

The Italian spoils system generates what I described in that article as "cordate strutturali" (i.e. akin to when you climb, one linked to the other, but in this case with not options to "unlock" from the rope), where you cannot single out, it is a "take or leave" for the entire chain.

In our future (actually, current) society, we need something else.