YOU would not know it from the English-language signs promising to serve passengers “quckly”, but Naples’ Capodichino
airport is British-owned. In August, 70% of it was bought by BAA, a company that also runs, among other things, London’s
invest there has greatly boosted its confidence.
with his clear commitment to privatisation, and fought off opposition at home to foreign ownership, branded as “colonisation by
A former communist fundamentalist, Mr Bassolino is an unlikely champion of privatisation. But the BAA deal is no one-off. Mr
Bassolino boasts about selling the municipal dairy-“What was a city council doing selling milk?”-and about pioneering, with
fleet to use Naples as its main container port for serving Europe.
1994 as a catalyst, the city has cleaned and restored many of its vast number of tourist attractions. It has also extended its
government for too long,” he says; this has created a “deadly dependence”.
last a year. Direct election has produced a crop of impressive new city mayors all over the south (and some in the north, too),
will come later this month, when some of them are up for re-election.
But there is still plenty of inefficient southern bureaucracy left. Consider, for example, the startling statistic that in 1996 Italy
managed to spend only 30% of its entitlement to EU money to help disadvantaged regions such as the mezzogiorno. The
country’s local and regional governments, it seems, are not even up to collecting hand-outs. The EU increasingly allocates money
to specific projects instead of handing it over in a chunk. That means local administrators have to prepare a project submission
and translate it for officials in Brussels, for which many of them at present lack the skills. But things may be getting better, slowly.
For instance, a “Europe Office” with English-speaking staff has been set up in Palermo’s city hall.
Bassolino’s new recipe for Naples
Bureaucracy has also made it hard to do anything new. One big firm wanted to sink some wells so it could build a new plant in
improvements in his city, including setting up a “one-stop shop” to help firms with permits. But much remains to be done, he
says: over the years, the impact of bureaucracy on Sicily’s development has been “no less than the impact of the Mafia”.
Who is the boss now?
The Mafia (along with similar criminal organisations, such as the Camorra in Naples) remains a huge problem for the south. Even
In Palermo, where two prominent anti-Mafia judges, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, were blown up in 1992, “The
Mafia is now the cultural minority; it was the majority,” says the city’s mayor, Leoluca Orlando. “The bureaucracy is now
honest, which it was not ten years ago.” Local experts on the Mafia say he may be exaggerating, but not much.
Palermo is spending a fortune in establishing itself as a centre for cultural tourism, mounting hundreds of musical and theatrical
years before the city sheds its worldwide reputation as the city ruled by the Corleone family.
headlines at home and abroad conjured up images of mob rule and tanks patrolling the streets. In fact, the soldiers were used
government are anxious to reduce such activity to levels no worse than organised crime anywhere else.
and Salvatore Lima, a leading Sicilian politician. The public turned against the “men of honour”, and many pentiti, former
mafiosi, gave evidence that led to hundreds of arrests. The command structure of the highly centralised Sicilian Mafia is thought
to have been destroyed. The main concern of the police now is to identify anyone who may be trying to fill the void. Elsewhere
in the south, organisations such as the Camorra tend to be fragmented, so it takes far more arrests to reduce their effectiveness
than in Sicily, where a few key arrests had a huge impact. Even so, the state is winning out.
for drug-dealing and racketeering remains significant. A new strategy of “investor protection” is to be put in place, coinciding
crime at bay. If the authorities can show they are able to protect investors, many more international companies may follow in the
footsteps of BAA.
But before they do, there is another thing that the south will have to get right: infrastructure. It suffers not only from the problems
transport-but also from its very own surfeit of white elephants. Much of the corruption revealed in the tangentopoli scandal was
concentrated in the south, where many public-works programmes became purely a means of distributing public money. Few
people bothered to ask whether a particular project was needed, and many such projects never got finished. As one Neapolitan
businessman put it, “70% of the new roads around Naples cannot be used. Lousy infrastructure is a bigger problem for my
company than the Camorra.”
cheaper. (Encouragingly, the Sicilian grower who complained about this was on his way to Kuwait to try to sell his crop there.)
parts of their production there.
With a GDP per head of only 70% the Italian average, the mezzogiorno is casting around for an economic winner. Its best hope
seems to be tourism. It may be hard to believe, but the tourist industry in Italy, and especially the south, is seriously
underdeveloped. In 1996, the country had only 33m visitors from abroad, compared with Spain’s 41m and France’s 62m,
making the promotion of tourism a top priority.