By Ben Chacko:
European Union CHIEFS sought to deny today that years of crippling budget cuts imposed on Italy could be responsible for the collapse of a Genoa motorway bridge with the loss of at least 39 lives earlier this week.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that Italy would increase infrastructure spending to tackle dangerously degraded bridges and roads even if doing so breached EU rules.
EU spokesman Christian Spahr retorted that the 2014-2020 EU budget plan earmarks €2.5 billion for Italian network infrastructure spending and claimed that “the EU has encouraged investment in infrastructure.”
But investment in Italy’s roads dropped by over €10bn in the three years following the bankers’ crash of 2007-8. Left newspaper Il Manifesto pointed out today that spending had dropped from €7.30 to €2.20 per kilometre (£10.40 to £3.12 a mile) over a few years of savage budgets.
As recently as May, the European Commission was demanding further cuts to Italian public spending.
Cuts imposed by the Silvio Berlusconi administration up to 2011 were prescribed in minute detail by the European Central Bank, with a leaked letter from then bank chiefs Mario Draghi and Jean-Claude Trichet on August 5 2011 instructing the Italian prime minister to accelerate the “full liberalisation of local public services … through large-scale privatisations”, achieve a balanced budget by 2013 “mainly via expenditure cuts”, abolish collective bargaining and cut public-sector pay and pensions.
Former EU commissioner Mario Monti, who was installed as a technocrat PM from 2011, inflicted even deeper spending cuts on Italy.
Rome has said it will revoke the concession granted to the Atlantia holding company which controls Italy’s motorway operator Autostrade per l’Italia, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte saying it had not properly maintained the bridge.
The firm, itself owned by Benetton, has protested that specific fault has not been proven and, if it loses the concession, the government will need to pay its full value.
The death toll from the disaster is expected to rise, with Genoa’s chief prosecutor saying that “as many as 20” people could still be trapped under rubble.
By Marianne Arens, 17 August 2018:
Following the collapse of a motorway bridge in Genoa, Italy, the death toll has risen to at least 42. The Morandi Bridge had subsided and broke over a length of over 200 metres on August 14, burying buildings and railroad tracks and plunging vehicles into the Polcevera River. So far, 16 people have been hauled out of the rubble with serious injuries and more than 600 have lost their homes. …
The exact technical reasons that led to the disaster have not yet been clarified. However, the tragedy is a piece of a bigger picture, which is becoming clearer and clearer. It reveals a deeply sick society in which public institutions and infrastructure are underfunded and systematically looted.
For decades, changing governments have organized an unprecedented orgy of enrichment by the Italian bourgeoisie at the expense of working people. Every year, public investment is cut back and infrastructure support systematically pared down.
All political camps are responsible for this. This applies both to the four governments under Silvio Berlusconi, who, as the epitome of corruption, had declared self-enrichment a virtue, as well as to various centre-left governments that alternated in power with Berlusconi. From Mario Monti to Romano Prodi to Enrico Letta, Matteo Renzi and Paolo Gentiloni, these were the governments in which the Democratic Party (PD) … cut back on everything and everyone to fill the gaps in the budget. Public investment, social spending and infrastructure were allowed to deteriorate.
The resulting social catastrophe created the conditions under which the current government of the right-wing Lega and the Five Star Movement came to power in June. This coalition pushes the worst characteristics of previous governments to extremes. It is mercilessly building up the police state, attacking the working class and organizing mass murder in the Mediterranean refugee crisis.
The current government politicians from the Lega and Five Star Movement are themselves directly responsible for the neglect of public infrastructure. For decades, the Lega has been an integral part of the various Berlusconi governments.
In the month since the August 14 collapse of Genoa’s Morandi Bridge, it has become clear that there were repeated warnings about the dangerous decay of the bridge’s structural integrity. Although minor repairs were carried out, calls from engineers and other experts for major repairs and the decommissioning of the structure were ignored by the private operator and the government: here.
Vehicle crashes claim lives of 16 migrant workers in Italy. By Allison Smith, 17 August 2018. The deadly vehicle crashes—caused by sheer greed for profit at the expense of the labourers—are linked to the extremely right-wing course of the government in Rome: here.