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The Bigger Picture in Italy

The Bigger Picture in Italy

The ongoing political saga in Italy, which saw the president, Sergio Mattarella, jettison what would have been the country’s first all-populist government has roiled global markets and spread fear to Brussels.


The political dynamics could take months to sort out, as Alex wrote yesterday. The bigger risk is more immediate: a self-fulfilling investor-driven economic crisis that reverberates throughout Europe.

Here’s Gabe on what has people spooked:

Economic fragility — The Italian economy is brittle, despite marginal improvements over the past few years. Widespread indebtedness and a weak banking sector mean the country remains vulnerable to economic shocks. If outside investors lose confidence in Italian banks, or start to think government expenses are on an unsustainable path, it could trigger a domino effect that ripples through the entire country (and beyond).

A collision course — With new elections likely this Fall, Rome and Brussels are heading for conflict. Both Lega and Five Star have committed to massive increases in government spending, in contravention of EU rules. But a tussle with Brussels may only further exacerbate the political dynamics that led to these parties’ popularity in the first place, driving a deeper wedge within Europe.

Size matters — Italy is too big to fail and too big to save–it accounts for about 15 percent of eurozone GDP and 23 percent of the bloc’s public debt. It’s far more important to the EU economy than Greece, whose financial meltdown contributed to problems across Europe’s southern periphery eight years ago. Yet Italy’s considerable size also means that other EU members might balk at any attempt to bail it out. For investors, that seems like an unsustainable situation that’s bound to break down.

What’s at stake: Despite the focus on the political drama in Rome, a deeper meltdown in markets could be the spark that ignites a wider crisis in Italy.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 Russians braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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Even as vaccines roll out around the world, COVID-19 is continuing to spread like wildfire in many places, dashing hopes of a return to normal life any time soon. Some countries, like Israel and the UK for instance, have been praised for their inoculation drives, while still recording a high number of new cases. It's clear that while inoculations are cause for hope, the pace of rollouts cannot keep up with the fast-moving virus. Here's a look at the countries that have vaccinated the largest percentages of their populations so far – and a snapshot of their daily COVID caseloads (7-day rolling average) in recent weeks.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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