Twenty years after Italy's political parties imploded in the Tangentopoli corruption scandal, and one week after a senior judge warned that the country remained as corrupt as ever, Prime Minister Mario Monti has struck a blow for transparency by publishing details of his government's personal finances.
It has certainly proved popular, with the government website crashing yesterday as Italians rushed to check the wealth, wages and tax payments of all ministers in the new whiter-than-white technocrat administration, although given the amounts many of them earn, the move is likely to arouse envy rather than gratitude.
Mr Monti is No 5 in the government rich-list with earnings in 2010 of over €1.5m (£1.3m) and a total wealth of more than €11m, a large part of which consists of 16 properties. His wife Elsa Antonioli, who owns another nine properties, earned €2.7m that year.
The Justice Minister and celebrated criminal lawyer Paola Severino heads the list with earnings of over €7m in 2010. In the spirit of egalitarianism, she apparently drives a Daihatsu. But her 17-metre yacht dispels any notion that she is one of the proletariat. That said, she did pay €4m in taxes, when, as everyone in Italy knows, many rich people do not pay any at all.
Corrado Passera, the Economic Development Minister, was the second highest earner, declaring an income of over €3.5m for 2010, paying €1.4m tax.
Not surprisingly perhaps, for economists, accountants and eggheads, the list is also noticeable for the ministers' un-Italian contentment with sensible cars: Fiat 500s, Pandas and Volkswagens predominate, and there's not a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari in sight.
The disclosures come 20 years after a member of Italy's ruling Socialist party was arrested for accepting a bribe from a cleaning company. The investigation snowballed to reveal an unimaginable web of corruption – Tangentopoli – that ultimately destroyed the ruling political class.
Last Wednesday, the president of the State Audit Court in Rome, Luigi Giampaolino, said that two decades on, financial corruption in Italy was "rampant" and as bad as ever.
The Monti government has said that tackling graft and tax evasion at all levels of Italian society is a priority – in order to free-up tens or hundreds of billions of euros for the debt-laden economy.
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