The election of Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva made for a Red October, and a political comeback for the ages. But, it was a close-run thing, while the second go on the merry-go-round will be far more challenging than the first.
At the fourth time of asking, former trade-union leader Lula was first elected President of Brazil in 2002, and reelected in 2006. Despite initial fears that he may display some of the authoritarian tendencies of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Lula in fact governed successfully from the progressive left, sharing the fruits of economic growth more broadly and lifting 20m Brazilians out of poverty while reducing inflation and government debt. One of his flagship policies, since copied elsewhere, was the conditional cash transfer known as Bolsa Família. This welfare programme channeled cash to poor families on the condition that their children were vaccinated and attended school.
There was consternation in Italy recently with The Economist’s characterisation of the British Tory Ominshambles as ‘Br-italy’, because it played into outdated stereotypes. And, with good reason.
Italy has had 68 governments since World War 2, run up massive public debts and regularly resorted to currency devaluation rather than harder-to-do policy reform to maintain competitiveness. Relatively short-lived governments are still the norm, with Giorgia Meloni having recently become the 7th PM in ten years at the head of a Brothers of Italy party that can trace an authentic neo-fascist lineage.
Fiscal profligacy and currency devaluation, however, were very much 20th century phenomena. Italy has been able to respond appropriately with fiscal stimulus to both the global financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, in line with peer countries. But, Eurozone membership has greatly constrained Italian policymakers since the mid-1990s.