I found this July 2011 article from the Guardian UK and thought that it was interesting. Pierenrico Martino is the real life Max, Irma, and Samuele.
Italy’s ‘nepotism’ fuels supply of young, middle class and educated émigrés
Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi seen as the embodiment of a system that relies on family ties and patronage, by John Hooper
Pierenrico Martino is scarcely your typical economic migrant. He comes from one of the richest towns in Italy: Treviso, near Venice, home of the Benetton fashion empire.
His family is well off, he says. His father is an accountant; his mother a teacher. Martino, 30, is himself a graduate of the university of Trieste. After college, he did some travelling.
“The more I saw, the more I realised that the society from which I came had shut itself off within very limited parameters. If you weren’t the son of someone – perhaps a relative – then your boss was going to put someone ahead of you who was,” he says.
“I wanted to go into the tourist business. But I realised that, in Italy, I couldn’t exploit my potential. Everywhere I looked there were family firms, and in a family firm the boss is never going to give up his job.”
So, three years ago, Martino decided to work in Britain, initially as a waiter – one of many thousands of young and mostly highly educated Italians who have opted in recent years to leave a country whose economy has barely grown since the turn of the century. In the decade to 2010, only Haiti and Zimbabwe fared worse.
Some of the reasons for that can be found in a system of advancement based on family ties and reciprocal, often corrupt, favours – and in the virtual monopolisation of important posts by the elderly. Estimates vary, but as many as 300,000 young adult Italians may be living abroad. Italy’s 74-year-old prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, with a fortune that owes much to political preferment, embodies some of the reasons why Italy this week came alarmingly close to being sucked into the eurozone debt crisis.
On Friday the Italian parliament approved measures intended to stave off that prospect. They also offered a momentary, but perhaps only momentary, hope to people like Martino that things may at last be changing.
Appalled by a run on Italy’s bonds and shares, politicians of left and right sank their differences to agree on stiffening a four-year budget that investors feared lacked rigour and immediacy. Among the new measures were plans for the privatisation of local authority-owned companies (a huge source of patronage and corruption), and for easing the stranglehold of the ordini, self-regulating associations that control entry into the law, medicine, journalism and other professions.
In many countries, Britain included, these types of reforms would have been promoted by the right. But they got into Italy’s austerity plan at the insistence of its biggest opposition group, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), and immediately stirred a revolt among Berlusconi’s MPs that could yet mean that the ordini keep their power.
“The big problem of the economy is a society that combines elements of the Indian caste system with that of the medieval guilds,” says Enrico Letta, the PD’s deputy leader and go-between in the talks that led to Tuesday’s historic deal. “Our watchword is social mobility, particularly for the young, who suffer most if people are co-opted into jobs instead of gaining them by fair competition.”
He hopes freeing up the economy will ease a juvenile unemployment rate that is approaching Spanish levels – and, at the same time, promote growth.
The budget aims to eliminate Italy’s budget deficit by 2014, so the state can start paying off its huge debts (of about 120% of GDP, second highest in the eurozone after Greece). But most of the reduction in the deficit is projected to come from extra revenue, rather than reduced spending, and the size of its tax-take will unavoidably be conditioned by the degree of overall prosperity.
That is one reason why the markets remain wary of Italy. Another is more political. Italy’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, has become a guarantor for investors. He may have done little to spur growth but he has succeeded in persuading the populist Berlusconi not to return to his old, free-spending ways. So far.
This week’s drama has masked the fact that Tremonti is in trouble on two fronts. Rumours persist that Berlusconi would like to rid himself of a minister whose stringency he seems to blame for his government’s dwindling popularity.
Indeed, the market panic began after an interview in which Berlusconi implied he would water down the budget, and openly mocked Tremonti saying “he thinks he’s a genius and believes everyone else is a moron”.
That was the second blow to the finance minister in 24 hours. No Italian political drama would be complete without scandal, and the previous day Tremonti had learnt that prosecutors in Naples had asked for the arrest of a close associate.
Marco Milanese, who has not been charged, is alleged to have used his position as Tremonti’s political adviser for gain. Investigators have taken evidence from a businessman who alleges that Milanese leaked him information about investigations into his affairs in return for expensive gifts: €450,000 in cash, jewellery, watches and luxury cars (a Ferrari Scaglietti to replace an Aston Martin). The businessman also claims he paid for Milanese and his wife to travel to New York so that they could see in the new year with showbusiness personalities including the actor and former model Sabrina Ferilli, who is not suspected of any wrongdoing.
The problem for Tremonti is that Milanese, who has said he can explain everything, was paying the rent on the flat the minister used in Rome. He moved out on the night this became known. The affair could yet return to haunt him, and maybe the markets and the euro too.