GUIDO CARLI was one of Italy's foremost experts on international economic and monetary affairs. As head of Italy's most important public and private centres of economic policy-making - from the governorship of the Bank of Italy and Treasury Ministry to the Presidency of the Italian Confederation of Industry, Confindustria - Carli dedicated himself to opening up and privatising Italy's post-war economy.
In the early 1950s Carli represented the Italian government in a number of international bodies (IMF and European Payments Union) engaged in the creation of the new international economic system. He also played a prominent role in the consolidation of a strong domestic private sector as president of one of the country's most important lending institutions and as Foreign Commerce minister in the 1950s.
The strong international focus of Carli's brand of economic reform helped to transform the Italian economy from the autarchy of the Fascist period to full currency convertibility, the opening of domestic markets to international competition, and the promotion of the free flow of capital. Carli was a strong believer in the importance of the Single Market for Italy's economic future, and while Minister of the Treasury in the 1989 Andreotti government he concentrated his energy on making Italy a full partner in the EMS and the Single Market. He considered EC economic integration and monetary union as two fundamental steps in the ultimate emergence of Italy's economy from its former peripheral status in Europe.
In the 1960s and 1970s Carli fought long and hard against the strong protectionist proclivities of the top rungs of Italian political and administrative elites which were fed by fears of foreign competition. The admittance in the early 1980s of Italy to the world economic summits and the recognition that it was among the top seven industrialised Western countries went a long way in justifying the views expressed by Carli on the role of an open market as an essential component of economic growth.
However, as much as he tried, Carli did not witness during his lifetime the achievement of his goal of privatising large parts of the country's nationalised industries. During his tenure as Governor of the Bank of Italy, from 1960 to 1975, Carli helped the centre-left governments overcome periodic speculative attacks against the lira but was not able to block those governments' continuing nationalisation policies. After the Bank of Italy, Carli moved over to the private sector as president of Confindustria where under his leadership neo-corporatist agreements emerged as a means of moderating wage demands and reducing the level and intensity of strike action.
In 1983 Carli turned to politics to advance his goal of privatisation; he was elected to his first political post as Christian Democratic Senator for Milan, a post to which he was re-elected in 1987. His appointment as Minister of the Treasury in 1989 gave rise to the hope that Carli could succeed in privatising significant portions of the public sector. With the recent unravelling of the kick-back scandal which has rocked and permanently destabilised the former governing coalition, it is now clearer why leaders of Carli's stature and foresight found privatisation so difficult to achieve. Control of public corporations was designed to produce power for the ruling political class and sweetheart deals for the large private corporations rather than benefits for the economy as a whole. It is ironic that as Carli's life came to an end the goal of privatisation was being proposed by the Amato government. As Carli had already understood, Italy could ill afford a large public sector. An open economy is incompatible with government monopolies in key economic sectors.
The implementation of privatisation is one of the primary tasks announced by the prime minister designate Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the Governor of the Bank of Italy. On the heels of the results of the referendum held on 18 April, the appointment of Ciampi would have pleased Carli, as it represents another sign of positive change in Italian politics. A leader of an unquestioned high level of professional and administrative experience in the mould of Guido Carli is taking over the task of guiding Italy through the present transitional phase of political and economic reform.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content