The incoming Draghi government promised “the best of the best” to guide the country. Does it deliver?
With Giuseppe Conte bidding an unexpectedly emotional goodbye to Palazzo Chigi over the weekend, the newly minted government of Mario Draghi took its oaths and began the Sisyphean task of rebuilding the Italian economy after one of its most catastrophic years since the end of World War Two. Of course, this is why Draghi was brought into his position; no one in Italy (or perhaps even the world) has his economic profile and understanding of the myriad challenges that the country faces. However, a state is more than it’s economy, and public assurances were givenad nauseum that despite the expert profile of its leader, the Draghi government would be politically representative of the country and more than a dreaded technocracy.
In the end, they did manage to achieve just that, selecting representatives of all of the major (and minor) parties in Italy, with a notable sprinkling in of some key figures in key positions. With only eight women in the cabinet it is less equitable than the Conte bis government, and if you were hoping for a Dream Team that could rival the 1992 US Olympic basketball team, you’re likely disappointed. But while the Draghi government has no more assurances of remaining in power than any other government before it, the mood does seem to have shifted: the time for bickering is over and if there is any hope of getting the Recovery Fund moving and the economy back on its feet, it will depend on at least a modicum of cooperation between Parliament, the parties, and the policymakers themselves.
That said, have Mario Draghi’s appointments done “whatever it takes” to get Italy back on track? We’ve listed his cabinet members below with their party affiliation and graded them with a score of 1 to 10, which we’ve very subjectively based on a complex alchemy of analysis and entertainment. Sure, they may be gone in a few months, but while we have them here why not get to know them?
Ministers (without Portfolio)
Federico D’Incà — Minister for Parliamentary Relations (M5S): The IT professional and Five Star secretary stays on in the same role that he held in the Conte government. He’s a member of the M5S old guard (in so far as such a thing exists) and is surely a plus for the strength of a movement which has seen a serious fracture with the departure of Alessandro di Battista on less than amicable terms. He’s young, studious, and has been called the mediator of the movement. Points go as well to his penchant for gardening, and his love of animals. Final Score: 8/10
Vittorio Colao — Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition (Morgan Stanley): Though not a politician by trade Colao entered the public sphere last year, when he was appointed by Giuseppe Conte to head the Task Force for reconstruction and the transition out of a national lockdown. Colao started his career at Morgan Stanley in London but made his name as the CEO of Vodafone Italia, a role he held for a decade. Colao is a clear win for the Draghi camp and surely excites Matteo Renzi, who has extolled his virtues since he first came onto the political scene. One thing is sure, he knows where the fiber optic wires are buried, and he knows why you can’t get any reception in your apartment. But he’s untested in the role of minister, and he may not have the stomach for the infighting. Final Score: 6/10
Renato Brunetta — Minister of Public Administration (FI): We never thought we’d be writing about Renato Brunetta in 2021, but life sure is full of surprises. The diminutive Venetian who held this very office under Silvio Berlusconi from 2008 to 2011 is back, with the brief resting on his shoulders now even heavier than when he last failed at it. To be fair, he did lobby for greater digitization and efficiency in public administration during his last tour, so it may just be that this mysterious appointment is really a date with destiny. His appointment is certainly a win for the more moderate wing of Forza Italia, though its doubtful that a revamp of the ‘sickness tax’ would go over very well in the midst of a global pandemic. Final Score: 5/10
Mariastella Gelmini — Minister of Regional Affairs and Autonomies (FI): In another instance of “everything old is new again,” the former Minister for Education under Berlusconi and one of his most loyal followers returns to the fore in the crucial position of point person between the government and regions. This position has become critical during the pandemic, as coordination for travel regulations, health services, and distribution of goods and services has proved to be one of the biggest challenges for a cohesive government approach. How is she doing so far? Well, during her swearing in ceremony at the Quirinale, Gelmini insisted on reciting the oath from memory, only to stumble and have to be prompted by an aide. Points for trying, though not many. Final Score: 4/10
Maria Rosaria “Mara” Carfagna — Minister for the South and Territorial Cohesion (FI): Silvio Berlusconi must be so pleased. Not only has he scored a hat trick with his former ministers, but he gets to have “the most beautiful Minister in the World” among them. And yes, while her career did begin as a model and Miss Italy candidate, Carfagna has been in politics for nearly two decades, since her early days running the women’s movement of Forza Italia (insert your own off color joke here). The Salerno native may well prove to have something both to prove and to contribute to development in the South, at a time when infrastructure and youth engagement in the region are among the most important topics in the Chamber. Who knows, she may just eclipse her venerable rabbi. After all, who says celebrities can’t become kingmakers? Final Score: 7/10
Fabiana Dadone — Minister for Sport and Youth (M5S): The game of musical chairs continues with the Five Star’s Dadone shifting from Public Administration to Sport and Youth, after Brunetta’s appointment to Public Administration. A young minister herself, Dadone only found out about her appointment after it was read on television, and incidentally on her 37th birthday. Though she may be young, she has been identified as a force within the M5S and has managed to avoid controversy in her tenure in government. She takes over an administration that may well be drowned out over the bigger voices of economy and development, but she declared herself up to the challenge of swimming with sharks. Let’s hope there’s funding for that. Final Score: 6/10
Elena Bonetti — Minister for Family and Equal Opportunities (IV): Well, we certainly couldn’t leave out the massively influential Italia Viva from the government for fear that Matteo Renzi might bring it all crashing down again, and Elena Bonetti is perhaps the safest choice — at least for those of us who have to actually live in Italy. After having vacated her position under Giuseppe Conte after Italia Viva left his government, Bonetti returns in her role to oversee the Family Act, among other important pieces of legislation. Bonetti has pledged her allegiance to the Draghi government and said that if she could characterize it with one word, it would be “trust.” Hmmm, you’ll pardon us for not being convinced just yet. Final Score: 6/10
Erika Stefani — Minister for Disabilities (Lega): The lawyer and senator who held the ministry for Regional Affairs under Conte I takes over a brief that has gathered increasing attention, in particular over the physical and mental toll that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have taken on the disabled in Italy. Stefani professed to being impressed with Draghi’s understanding of the myriad disabilities that can affect people and pledged to work together with other ministers in developing solutions, notably the Health Minister Roberto Speranza. She also recounted her own experience of being gravely injured and comatose after a motorcycle accident and the way that it changed her perspective. If we are to be governed by the Lega, let it be from those who seem capable of compassion. Unless, of course, you’re an immigrant. Final Score: 7/10
Massimo Garavaglia — Minister for Tourism (Lega): The long time Lega member takes over a ministry that will be solely dedicated to tourism rather than split with culture, as it was in the past. Garavaglia has never headed a ministry before, and his background is in Political Science and Economy, edging him ever closer to the thin line between politician and technocrat. Notably, Garavaglia was involved in a 2015 legal action where he was investigated for auction disturbance over medical equipment for dialysis patients that led to the arrest of then vice-President of Lombardy, Mario Mantovani. The new minister of tourism was found not guilty of the charges that put his cohort in jail for 5 years, which left him free to figure out how to revive one of the hardest hit and most important sectors in the Italian economy. Oh good. Final Score: 3/10
Ministers (with Portfolio)
Luigi Di Maio — Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation (M5S): You’ve got to hand it to Giggino: only Air Bud can claim a more meteoric rise to prominence from obscurity, and Luigi Di Maio has proven to be even more tenacious than that lovable pooch. That said, the stakes just got real high for the boy from Pomigliano d’Arco: Giuseppe Conte had become an ally and a mentor of sorts, and with his departure on a wave of popular sentiment their relationship now becomes one of subtle rivalry for the soul of a Five Star in perpetual movement. But on the job front, Di Maio risks being sidelined on the international level by the formidable Draghi, with whom everyone will want to have a word. At the EU level, Di Maio faces the unenviable challenge of maintaining his legitimacy amongst a group of people who know Super Mario very, very well. Final Score: 4/10
Luciana Lamorgese — Minister of the Interior (Independent): Lamorgese holds onto her role in Interior after strong support from Sergio Mattarella and a generally favorable view of her track record among the parties involved. Indeed, she is one of the most qualified and well suited to her positions, with an impressive legal career and a sober disposition that provided not only a welcome break from the Salvini days but a clear direction moving forward. Lamorgese is just about as close to an ideal mix of political and technical that we can hope for, and in the coming days she’ll be forced to once again tackle immigration and security. Simply put, she’s the best woman for the job. Bonus points for the fact that her success makes Matteo Salvini crazy. Final Score: 9/10
Marta Cartabia — Minister of Justice (Independent): Giuseppe Conte is probably pretty disappointed that he didn’t have Marta Cartabia in his cabinet, as she’s likely one of the more qualified jurists in the country, and we all know how much our man likes a bit of jurisprudence. Cartabia served as a judge in the Constitutional Court for nearly ten years, becoming the first woman to hold the Presidency of the Court from 2019 to 2020. If her bona fides weren’t enough to be convincing, she takes over from Alfonso Bonafede, whose tenure was at best controversial and at worst an abuse of power. The bar is low in this ministry, but Cartabia looks more than capable of raising it. Final Score: 9/10
Lorenzo Guerini — Minister of Defense (PD): Lest we forget our friends in the Democratic Party, long time member Lorenzo Guerini continues in his role as Minister of Defense, which should satisfy most of those at the table who are either in support of him or afraid of him (we’ll leave you to guess into which category Matteo Renzi falls). He’s a stalwart who didn’t succumb to Renzi’s siren calls to leave the PD, and he’s shifted the focus of the military from international operations to domestic support for the health services and vaccination campaign during the pandemic. Guerini’s confirmation is a sign that Draghi probably won’t stray very far from those aforementioned efforts, and that no one is looking to rock the boat when it comes to military operations. Points off for being a San Francisco Giants fan, though. Final Score: 8/10
Daniele Franco — Minister of Economy and Finance (Bank of Italy/Morgan Stanley) If there was any doubt as to what direction the Draghi government would take, the appointment of his long time friend and former director of the Bank of Italy to one of the most critical ministries in the country should be definitive. The placement of Franco is a subtle nod to everyone at the table (and the rest of us) that whilst the ‘political’ figures go about their business, the real work will be taking place right here. With 200 billion euro on the line, neither Draghi nor the European Union is taking any chances on who holds the purse strings. If it works, we may just be witness to the greatest economic miracle since the Marshall Plan. But that’s a pretty big if: we might just as likely have a front-row seat to everything that might go wrong in Modern Monetary Theory. Final Score: 7/10
Giancarlo Giorgetti — Minister of Economic Development (Lega): Well, you can’t win them all, can you? Prominent Lega member, outspoken critic of all things parliamentarian, and evil Dwight Schrute, Giancarlo Giorgetti’s appointment to the Ministry of Economic Development is a massive get for Matteo Salvini and the right in general. Indeed, Giorgetti’s appointment to the post could go far towards explaining Salvini’s recent about-face in his anti-EU rhetoric: while Giorgetti himself is no fan of European governance, having him so close to the coffers must certainly have the Lega feeling much better about their position. It’s a shrewd move on Draghi’s part: keeping the squeakiest wheels greased so that the real work can move forward, knowing full well that there’s plenty that you can still do behind closed doors. But where does that leave the rest of us? Final Score: 5/10
Stefano Patuanelli — Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (M5S): The upstart who worked his way up the ranks of the Five Star from local meetups in Trieste to the party leadership moves from Economic Development to Agriculture. Young, intelligent, and principled, he initially opposed the Draghi government but was convinced to remain on by those who consider him to be the future of the Movement. He’s an ally to the Di Maio/Casaleggio wing of the party and if they do hope to maintain a foothold in the country they’ll need people who can start to build a credible opposition to an emboldened right. Points for being a basketball fan which technically qualifies him to be part of the Dream Team. Final Score: 7/10
Roberto Cingolani — Minister for the Environment and Ecological Transition (Independent): In a major coup for the physics lobby, teacher and physicist Cingolani joins the ‘Superministry’ which takes over the energy brief from the Ministry of Economic Development. The Green New Deal and Sustainability measures are a massive part of the Recovery Plan and though there are plenty of other people who may be more qualified in those areas, both the expansion of the office and the yet untested Cingolani’s appointment seem to be, for the moment, well-received news on the left. One of the more technical Ministers in the mix, Cingolani has been a visiting professor in both Tokyo and the United States. Bonus points for him undoubtedly being able to pronounce the word ‘shock’. Final Score: 6/10
Enrico Giovannini — Minister of Infrastructure and Transport (Independent): Another figure who straddles the political/technical divide, Giovannini joins the Draghi Cabinet after having served as Labor Minister and Social Policies under Enrico Letta (remember him? Yeah, neither do we). An economist and statistician by training, Giovannini takes over the brief with all eyes on him, as infrastructure played a major role in the negotiations for the Recovery Plan during Conte bis. As the head of the Futura Network, Giovannini has been working on sustainable solutions, and this will surely come in handy as he works on the all-important transition to low emissions vehicles across the country. Since Elon Musk wasn’t available (or was he?), Giovannini seems like a viable backup. Final Score: 8/10
Andrea Orlando — Minister of Labour and Social Policies (PD): It doesn’t get more political than the founding member of the Democratic Party, and Andrea Orlando has been to this dance before, serving as the Justice Minister under both the Gentiloni and Renzi governments. Having survived that, Orlando obviously has a strong stomach, and he’ll need it: with the expiry of furlough and redundancy, the Ristori decrees on the table, high levels of youth and female unemployment, and fractious Unions already voicing their concerns, Orlando’s task may be one of the more formidable in the cabinet. He probably shouldn’t check his Twitter account too often, it’s bound to be a real buzzkill. Final Score: 6/10
Patrizio Bianchi — Minister of Public Education (Independent): The dramatic shift to Didattica a Distanza (DaD, or online learning) during the COVID-19 emergency is one of the biggest challenges the previous government faced and remains one of its biggest failures. The Draghi Cabinet will have to address this and have chosen Professor Patrizio Bianchi, a widely respected chair of applied economics who already headed the education Task Force under previous Minister Lucia Azzolina. His qualifications are indisputable yet one can’t help but wonder how DaD went so badly with him at the helm. His gaffes with the media seem inevitable, which is good for viral videos but bad for kids who desperately need education. He’s also expressed trepidation at the scope of the work ahead and the idea of living away from home at the age of 69. But hey, that’s showbiz, baby. Final Score: 4/10
Maria Cristina Messa — Minister of Universities and Research (Independent): We’ll say this for the Draghi Cabinet: if they’re going to be ever so slightly technical, at least they’ve selected some pretty competent people to occupy those roles. Maria Cristina Messa is a physician and academic who has done residencies and research at San Raffaele and Bicocca in Milan (where she was the first female rector) as well as foreign placements in the US and UK. She is the author of over 180 scientific publications and a recipient of the Marisa Bellisario award, Donne Ad Alta quota. It remains to be seen how she’ll make it worth it to go to university in Italy, but she will almost certainly intimidate every other member of the cabinet, perhaps even Draghi himself. Extra points for that. Final Score: 8/10
Dario Franceschini — Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities (PD): Have you ever come back from a long, difficult trip and been happy just to see a familiar face, even though you don’t really care one way or the other for that person? Well, saddle up next to friendly neighborhood Dario, the culture minister who continues his role in the newly formed government. Has Italian culture been survived COVID-19? Hard to tell. Is his project to develop ITsArt, the ‘Netflix of Italian Culture’, a victim of terrible branding? Very much so. Does he seem to genuinely care about preserving culture at a time when we desperately need someone to care? Absolutely. And you know what? Sometimes that’s enough. Points for writing six novels that sound wildly entertaining. Final Score: 6/10
Roberto Speranza — Health Minister (LeU): If there was one person who looked more exhausted than Giuseppe Conte during the past year, it was undoubtedly Roberto Speranza. No one has been berated, criticized, and second-guessed more than the forty-two year old who has dedicated his life to party politics, and yet here he remains, still trying to push at the inevitable waves. He may yet be tilting at windmills, but his appointment signals that Draghi trusts him to continue the fight and wants to keep continuity in the response. Or maybe no one else wanted the job; who could blame them? Whatever the case may be, Roberto Speranza has held back the tide and he has held his own in unimaginably choppy waters. Extra points for the sleep he’ll never get back. Final Score: 8/10
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