Super Mario, faced with the challenge of rescuing Italy as he did with the euro

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Mario Draghi appears before the press after accepting the request of the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, to form a Government.

Mario Draghi returns home. The man who captained the European Central Bank in the midst of the financial crisis, the one considered by many to be the savior of the euro, the brilliant economist with decades of experience in institutions around the planet, is now fighting to stabilize his country, Italy, in the middle of another crisis caused by the pandemic.

Once again, there is no one who can stand in the prime minister’s chair and a new, unburned, consensus figure is needed to take on the task. Draghi has been chosen and, for now, an overwhelming majority of parties endorse him, because there is no other: they no longer know who to turn to and this implacable technocrat may finally be their solution.

Born in Rome on September 3, 1947, he is the “idol of the Italian bourgeoisie”, as his most leftist detractors say, but that is not his origin. Trained by the Jesuits, a practicing Catholic, he is the son of a bank clerk and a pharmacist, both of whom died in a short time, when he was little more than a teenager. With the help of his family and his bright grades, he took care of his two younger brothers and began to train in economics.

I study in theUniversity of La Sapienza and delved into his studies in the mythical Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was the first Italian to obtain a doctorate in his branch. His thesis was on economic integration and the evolution of exchange rates. He then began his teaching stage at the Universities of Trento, Padua, Venice and Florence, until he jumped into the public eye,treasure Italian. There he no longer stopped climbing:Inter-American Development Bank, alworld Bank, to theOECD, alEuropean Investment Bank, aGoldman Sachs, al Bank of Italy, alEuropean Central Bank

Along the way he has formed a discreet family. That nobody lookflowers in his biography. Draghi has two children, a biologist and a banker, and he entertains — a little, because he is a “Stakhanovist”, according to his advisers — playing tennis and golf, climbing and watching the sunset.Roma of his soul. That and his granddaughter are practically the only thing that makes this man with the stony face, unalterable, smile. He is, of course, not someone given to drama.

The culmination of Draghi’s career, or so it seemed then, came with his landing at the European Central Bank in 2011. The Italian economist held the chair of Jean-Claude Tritchet in Frankfurt amid the sovereign debt crisis, which threatened to end the adventure of the single currency.

His time at the head of this European institution will always be remembered by a phrase pronounced in June 2012: “The ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough”. (“The European Central Bank is prepared to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.”)

Thanks to those magical words, Draghi managed to alleviate the enormous financial storm that the European Union was experiencing. That hint that he would do everything in his power to ensure the survival of the single currency was enough to reassure financial markets. Investors returned to trust in troubled countries such as Spain and Italy, which had seen their risk premium skyrocket.

Of euros and crisis

Under his tenure, the ECB abandoned its role of spectator and became a true actor in European politics, a role that has continued to be played by its successor. Christine Lagarde. Draghi adopted a substantial change in the monetary policy of the eurozone compared to its predecessor by betting on a drop in interest rates and launching a multi-million dollar asset purchase program.

Despite the popularity of this phrase, Draghi has always been a black beast for the left because of his management during the crisis. When he was governor of the Bank of Italy, he demanded that the transalpine country adopt austerity policies that caused the recession. Upon reaching the ECB, he maintained his commitment to cuts as a recipe to get out of the crisis, led by Angela Merkel, and forced several countries to adopt unpopular measures or even ask for a rescue.

At the head of the ECB, he was part of the troika that it watched to the countries of the south of Europe so that they fulfill the foreseen plans. Many Greek citizens have not forgotten his name, when he decided in 2015 to turn off the tap on Hellenic banks and caused a playpen. A game of chess that Draghi won and the Hellenic minister lost by a landslide Yanis Varoufakis, who ended up resigning.

The new challenge, at home

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A rally in support of Mario Draghi in front of the Quirinale Palace.

Now he has to face a domestic stage, after so many years away. I almost miss hearing him speak Italian, a rare language in the world institutions where he has worked. His is a return of “commitment”, that of a technocrat who must get the national government out of its quagmire, without acronyms.

Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Republic of Italy, has left in his hands the creation of a new government alliance and a new cabinet, after blowing up the stability of theumpteenth president defenestrated in the country, Giuseppe Conte. The challenge is to form a “high profile” team “not identified with any specific political force”, with someone of “authority” in command.

Draghi has agreed to be that strong man and has negotiated with formations so far irreconcilable to achieve that stability. In a country with a huge recession and on the rise Euroscepticism, it brings a double good: satisfying populism that, despite its conservatism, sees in it someone with “work capacity, honesty and prone to solutions” (in the words of theFive Star Movement), and stop those who want less and less Europe (such as the League ofMatteo Salvini). Even fireproof Silvio Berlusconi, once maker and dethroner of kings, gives his support.

Just as it was never a quota or a decorative figure in the great blocks of economic power, neither will it be now. If he has said yes, explains the Italian press, it is because he is convinced that he can do things well and recover the country from the crisis it is experiencing. He brings experience and, above all, credibility, in a country where the wear and tear is such that politicians do not even reach 15% popularity. They say that he is a good team manager, that he is capable of putting antagonistic opponents in agreement, and he will have to resort to all those arts.

However, it also carries a trace of mistrust, which it generated in its days with the ECB tightening the screws to the south with its austerity and which not a few point out as key in the increase in Italian debt and its current problems.

“The severity of the emergency requires high-level responses,” he said upon assuming the task of Mattarella, with “hope and determination.” He seems determined, because he has even advanced where he will begin to heal the country: his priorities are environmentalism, tax reform and vaccines against the coronavirus.

Italy awaits, for its sake, the best Super Mario.


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