Obituary: Giovanni Goria

Wolfgang Achtner
Sunday 22 May 1994 23:02

Giovanni Goria, politician: born Asti, Italy 30 July 1943; Member, Italian Chamber of Deputies, for Cuneo-Alessandria-Asti 1976-94; Finance Minister 1982-87; Prime Minister of Italy 1987-88; Agriculture Minister 1991- 92; Finance Minister 1992-93; married Eugenia Obermitto (one son, one daughter); died Asti 21 May 1994.

GIOVANNI GORIA was Prime Minister of Italy from July 1987 to March 1988 and, at the age of 43, the youngest man to hold that post since the Second World War.

Throughout his political career, the bearded politician enjoyed moments of intense popularity that allowed him to remain a leading figure in the Christian Democrat party even though he had no real power base of his own. Goria's good looks and his simple manners appealed to the voters and helped him stand out among the party's old stalwarts. Goria was nicknamed 'Sandokan' by the Italian press, on account of his resemblance to the Indian actor Kabir Bedi who played the role in a popular television series.

Goria was well known for his pragmatism and a certain dose of irony. He used to say of himself: 'I'm not an economist, I'm only an accountant who is interested in politics and as a politician I deal with economics'.

Goria's first cabinet post came unexpectedly. In fact, he was chosen as Treasury Minister in 1982 only as a replacement for his mentor, Giovanni Marcora, to whom the post had been promised but who was too ill to take it on.

Chance also played a part in Goria's appointment as prime minister. After the Socialist leader, Bettino Craxi, had been forced to step down, the post was supposed to go to the Christian Democrat Party boss, Ciriaco De Mita. But Craxi was successful in boycotting De Mita, forcing President Francesco Cossiga to appoint Goria instead. During his brief tenure as Prime Minister, Goria had to deal with three serious emergencies: the landslide in the Valtellina, and Wall Street's 'Black Monday', when the Italian lira fell to a historical low against the dollar, and the crisis surrounding protection of oiltankers in the Persian Gulf. Overcoming opposition from Giulio Andreotti, Goria sent Italian naval units to join minesweeping operations.

'The man is neither a Bismark nor a Metternich, but he has a clean nose. He is full of energy and he stimulates women's maternal instincts.' This was the authoritative commentator Indro Montanelli's tongue-in-cheek description of Goria.

Goria joined the Christian Democrats in 1960, when he was only 17 years old. After obtaining a degree in economics he became the head of Asti's provincial administration and its chamber of commerce and then was appointed regional secretary of the Christian Democrat Party. Goria was elected to the Chamber of Deputies, Italy's lower house, for the first time, in 1976.

After serving as an economic adviser under the Christian Democrat Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, Goria became Budget Under-Secretary during the government of the Republican Party's Giovanni Spadolini, in 1981. He became Treasury Minister in the government of the veteran Christian Democrat leader Amintore Fanfani, in 1982, and held that post until 1987. During his tenure as Treasury Minister, Goria managed to reduce inflation but was unable to stem a steady increase in public spending.

After his nine-month mandate at the the head of Italy's 47th post- war government, Goria was elected to the European Parliament in 1989 and returned to Rome to become Agriculture minister, in April 1991, under Giulio Andreotti. In 1992, Goria held his last cabinet post when he was appointed Finance Minister by the Socialist prime minister Giuliano Amato, but resigned in February 1993 following press allegations of financial wrong-doing in his home town's affairs.

Goria was acquitted of any wrong-doing after a first corruption trial and had strongly proclaimed his innocence in a second case, involving allegations of a bribe being paid by firms awarded the construction of Asti's new hospital. This case was still in progress at the time of his death.

(Photograph omitted)

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