He's an erudite lawyer and professor who is taking on one of Europe's toughest jobs. As incoming finance supremo in Silvio Berlusconi's new center-right government, Giulio Tremonti's brief will be to revitalize Italy's economy. He plans to apply a serious dose of liberal policy to an economy that was mostly state-run just a decade ago and still bears the scars of government mismanagement and rampant corruption.
This is the second time Tremonti, 53, has tackled this difficult task. He was Finance Minister in the first government Berlusconi headed, in 1994. Although that one lasted only seven months, Tremonti managed to enact a law that provided a tax cut for reinvested profits. This time, he aims to go much further. He wants to slash the corporate tax rate from 50% to 33%. He also intends to streamline Italy's vastly complicated tax system.
And that's just the beginning. Tremonti aims to tackle pension reform and to restructure the ineffective public administration. More than that, the bespectacled professor from University of Pavia hopes to take on the underlying reasons for tax evasion and capital flight in Italy--the prevailing disrespect by Italians for the state. "Our target is to install a degree of loyalty to the republic," says Tremonti. "If you don't pay taxes, you're not a good citizen."
Can he do it? Not overnight. But if Berlusconi's government stays in power for several years, Tremonti may at least change the economic debate and begin to right what fundamentally ails his country.