Peter Zentai: What is happening in Italy? What does the Catholic Church have to do with this election?
Roberto Tamborini: the Catholic Church usually tries to send the Catholic Church some principles which they should comply and they do not give explicit electoral recommendations although they try to interpret what the idea is behind. The messages they try to give now is that they underline the risk of populism and the risk of promises, deviation from the European historical connections of Italy.
Is it clear that the Catholic Church has nothing to do with the Vatican?
Well, I am not an expert. The Catholic Church is a complex thing.
But the Catholic Church is mirroring the views of the Vatican?
The Vatican is one thing and the bishops are another. Generally those who speak in this kinds of situations have their own view but they are not in opposition with the governing bodies of the Vatican.
Is Berlusconi viewed as a populist generally?
Well in this moment yes. There is a set of electoral offers that stress the need of a number of necessary adjustments and policies that may not be so popular and stress the need to have an active position. Italy is a big country and a large economy. It is necessary for Italy to have a better cooperation with Europe to be able to recover. The point is to get more room of maneuver.
Does the Catholic Church support Berlusconi?
My feeling is that in a sense they subscribe to the view that I just said. There is a clear crossroad: proEurope, against Europe facing the necessary adjustments or go around the corner?
One the one hand Italy has huge debt on the other hand Italy seems to have the richest population in Europe. How can you explain this?
That is an interesting point. Italy is a relatively rich country if you take into account per capita income but in the past five years per capita income in Italy has fallen. Italy is also rich in another sense in assets, wealth, houses and financial assets. If you take into account the assets we have a strong housing sector. That is a crucial point. In spite of the fact that the saving rate has been falling. The accumulation of wealth is very high.
How could they do this? How could they save so much money?
Well, Italy has always had a high savings rate. If you have a rather good level of income wealth grows. Italian households like German and French households have more personal income net of welfare expenditure, think of the Anglo-Saxon countries. We have a high level of tax evasion, which is a problem.
The public debt of Italy is high.
Public debt of Italy started growing in the ’80s until that it was perfectly in line. There has been a progressive increase in welfare expenditures and that is a general tendencies. Italy has a high average age, we are happy to live long. The attempt to keep up with these expenditures has been a failure. If you increase taxes, tax evasion goes up and that has been a problem.