The treasure of all that Italy made (but it only works if they say no) –

by time news

When Cavour gave it a first shape, Italy was not there yet. The Deposits and Advances Fund for Public Works Fund was born in the Kingdom of Sardinia on the French model of the Caisse de dpts et Consignations, but then played a fundamental role in unification. Because the national identity of a country is entirely contained in the relationship of trust between a single investor citizen and the state. Cavour – we read in the book by Paolo Bricco (Cassa Depositi e Prestiti. History of a dynamic and patient capital. For 170 years, il Mulino) – established an essential rule. The deposits were guaranteed by the state. The liberalists of the time did not like this competitive advantage granted by the public power to a single institution. How the liberalists of today do not like the pervasiveness of the CDP which, with an asset, in 2019, of 449 billion, shareholder of 11 listed companies and called to intervene in everything. the operational arm of the state in economics. Necessary (with limits) especially in times of pandemics. Health and economic emergency no different from many others of the past (earthquakes, wars) faced thanks to the presence of this public lung. The Cassa was a surprising treasure trove of popular private virtues, often undermined by recurrent public vices and partisan interests. Reading its history better clarifies its profile and its indispensable function.

The volume Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (Il Mulino, pp. 248, euro 16)

A united Italy was made up of roads, railways, schools and all the public works of local administrations financed by the Cassa with the money set aside by families, even the poorest. If in the Savoy kingdom the example had been French, with Quintino Sella – who established the Postal Savings Bank in 1870 – the reference was English. The aim, always with the public guarantee, was to make private savings flow towards public investments. A very topical objective if we consider that Italians’ propensity to save tripled in a year of pandemic. Today, before us, there is the same dilemma of Sella. How can current assets (and European funds) be usefully used in the creation of future income?

The economic journalist Paolo Bricco (1973)
The economic journalist Paolo Bricco (1973)

In the Giolitti era, the Cassa grew to have assets equal to 20 per cent of the gross domestic product. The nascent industrial triangle (Turin, Milan, Genoa) was also the result of his investments. In the most difficult moments, in the First World War for example, it was called upon to find the liquidity of the emergency and to underwrite public securities. During Fascism he participated in what was, in 1926, the only debt restructuring operation ever carried out and in the defense of Quota 90 (with the pound). After the Great Crisis, the Cassa entered the capital of the IMI (Italian movable institute) but above all of the Iri (Institute for industrial reconstruction) created in 1933 by Alberto Beneduce and led by Donato Menichella. The IRI intervened in the private economy by saving the banks overwhelmed by the industrial crisis. Participation in the capital of troubled groups such as Edison, Bastogi and Breda then partially (Italgas) privatized.

Today’s CDP (president Giovanni Gorno Tempini and managing director Fabrizio Palermo) is often compared to IRI. For the good, because Iri and the Cassa were the protagonists of the economic miracle. They created work and well-being. The Cassa, to give just one example, finances the Crediop (Institute for credit in major works) which contributed to the construction (in 8 years!) Of the Autostrada del Sole, inaugurated in 1964. Too bad because the public company accumulated debts huge – up to 1994 of 127 thousand billion lire – which still weigh on everyone today. In the case of the EFIM, the body for the financing of manufacturing industries, liquidated in 1992, the Cassa was authorized, two years later, to bear the burden, to issue bonds and take out loans for a value of no less than 9 thousand. billions. The financing to local administrations, of which CDP had the monopoly until 1989, led many municipalities to prefer the debt taken on by all other Italians to the tax levy for their own citizens. And so it happened, another example, that in 1974, the Cassa approved a loan of 16 billion in favor of the Municipality of Naples for the disposal of liabilities.

The patrimonial autonomy of the Cassa was recognized only in 1983. The legal profile remained uncertain until the transformation, in 2003, with the European rules, into a joint stock company. Not a bank, but similar to the Bank of Italy. A market unit outside the public perimeter, therefore, its debt (postal savings) does not enter into the calculation of the total. But it does not prevent the CDP from being the natural purchaser of the Treasury’s holdings in order to alleviate the burden of its public budget. The foundations of banking origin – the same savings banks that opposed its activity, fearing competition – have acquired a share of 30 per cent. And here too the story ends a bit – as noted in the book by the former president of the Cariplo Foundation and Acri, Giuseppe Guzzetti who graduated in Cattolica in 1953, with a thesis on the activities of the Cassa in Somalia – and the current strong subject of a weakened economy takes shape.

The CDP, which is present in the infrastructural networks also through its funds, is committed on all the hottest fronts. One above all: the new structure of Autostrade, after the tragedy of the Morandi bridge, which with its subsidiaries (Fincantieri and WeBuild) it rebuilt in record time. The relationship with politics, which would like it to be involved everywhere (from the former Ilva to Alitalia), runs along the lines of its internal skills and the ability of management to say no. And to always remind his interlocutors that his capital formed by postal savings, the pivot of citizens’ trust in the state. It would be enough to reread an article by Luigi Einaudi published in the Corriere della Sera on November 25, 1921, in which he rejected the idea that the Cassa was a fund that can be drawn at will, as an extreme guarantee. The Municipality of Milan, at that time, was in serious trouble. The mayor, the socialist Angelo Filippetti, asked for the intervention of the Cassa, also supporting the employee strike. The government was Luigi Facta, the last before Mussolini. What would happen – wrote the future President of the Republic – if the depositors of the postal savings banks imagined that their deposits were loaned to municipalities of red, yellow or white, under political pressure and threats of strikes ?. The Cassa said no at the time. Others talk about it today too. They will strengthen the capital and purpose of so many others, and necessary, yes.

January 18, 2021 (change January 18, 2021 | 20:51)

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