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"Take the bus", Italian government tells officials PDF Print E-mail
Jan 16, 2012 at 01:10 PM
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And what with the price of gas...

The new Italian government headed by economist Mario Monti is training its sights on one of Italians' major pet peeves, the dark-blue state-owned sedans -many of which have been bullet-proofed -- that are a (costly) sign of prestige for all top Italian public-sector bigwigs. The so-called "auto blu" are estimated to number between 50,000 andd 70,000 if all levels of government -- central government, regions, provinces and municipalities - are included and come complete with salaried drivers who often alternate in shifts. A decree-law presented by Filippo Patroni-Griffi, the current minister of the Public Function (that is, the civil service) says that wherever possible, government functionaries should use public transport, which ostensibly could include taxis.

The decree says that when used government limousines - generally large, luxury sedans - it should be because it is a necessity and not to confer prestige. In other words, except for the highest-level officials, the cars should no longer be assigned to a particular person but to an office. All too often, politicians or sometimes other officials have been known to use these cars for private use, such as taking their wives shopping or getting to the stadium on time.

A census is now underway and if data is not yet complete, so far it would appear that the two regions with the highest number of "auto-blu" are Liguria and Tuscany (both traditionally governed by the moralizing center-left. On the central level, the cars are generally bought by individual ministries or other state offices. The ministry of Defence is reported to have had a "parco macchine" - a fleet - of around 1700 cars but recently purchased 4000 Maserati luxury sedans. I don't know how many the Interior (police) ministry has, but it should be remembered that hundreds of Italian officials have been assigned police escorts that generally include at least two cars, both of which probably bullet-proofed.

One can only imagine the expense involved, collectively, in running all these cars. But if savings would account for only a small percentage of Italy's mammoth debt, limiting their use would send an important signal to a population being called upon to pay more and higher taxes.

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