Alice Cavalieri

Dec 16, 2023

Italian Budgeting Policy

Between Punctuations and Incrementalism

Palgrave Macmillan 2023

European governments are emerging from 15 years of on-again, off-again crises that upended their budgetary positions. From close to balance in 2008, the aggregate budget deficit for governments using the euro is now 3% of output while public debt is up from 66% to 90%.

These "processes happened more forcefully", writes Alice Cavalieri in Italian Budgeting Policy: Between Punctuations and Incrementalism (Palgrave MacMillan, 2023). Since 2008, Italy's primary account excluding interest payments has turned from a substantial surplus to a deficit while public debt surged from 100% to 140% of output. At the same time, Italy’s politics have fragmented – leading to the formation of seven governments in ten years – and, for 15 months in 2018-2019, Western Europe’s first-ever administration run only by populists. 

Italy’s budgetary framework has been tested like no other. “The budget unmasks politicians,” writes Cavalieri. “In contrast to other political documents, the budget cannot be exploited as a mere showcase of policy positions without any future but is rather a litmus test of actual policy priorities. It leaves no room for imagination, as it translates policy commitments into a quantifiable amount of financial resources, listing revenues and expenses for a delimited time period and conveying the services that the state wants to provide to its citizens and what specific services and to what extent citizens are entitled to them. Thus, it is not simply a document, it is a political act".

Alice Cavalieri is a research fellow at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Trieste. Before that, she spent two years as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Turin, having obtained her PhD at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa.

*The author's own book recommendations are Political Recruitment: Gender, Race and Class in the British Parliament by Pippa Norris and Joni Lovenduski (Cambridge University Press, 1994) and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Virago, 1987).

Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Advisors, who also writes the twenty4two newsletter on Substack and hosts the In The Room podcast series.

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