Voices from Russia

Monday, 18 February 2013

Good Ol’ Silvio Rides Again… “Bribes are Necessary”



Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi shocked the Italian media with his views on bribery and its necessity in doing business in Third World markets. A series of corruption scandals has rocked the Italian political scene, whilst the current election campaign added to the intensity of the media inquiries into the unsavoury business practises of Berlusconi’s former allies. Amongst the targets of the latest anti-corruption campaign are the CEOs of Finmeccanica S.p.A. and Eni S.p.A.. It seems that Berlusconi felt the need to defend them, telling a Financial Times correspondent, “Bribes are a phenomenon that exists, and it’s useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations when you’re negotiating with Third World countries and régimes”.

The former Italian Prime Minister also tried to explain that bribing government officials is basically an unavoidable part of doing business, and that Giuseppe Orsi (former head of Finemeccanica) and Paolo Scaroni (former head of Eni) were actually paying “commissions”. Finmeccanica and Eni are Italian companies where the Italian government has significant stakes; therefore, the media often links the bribes paid by those companies to the corrupt practices of government officials. Both former CEOs denied any wrongdoing, but it’s unknown whether they appreciate such a form of public defence from Berlusconi, a politician who’s been heavily-involved in corruption scandals. Berlusconi’s political enemies used this opening to criticise him for “supporting corruption”, whilst current Prime Minister Mario Monti emphasised that his government has taken unprecedented measures to root out corruption. Given the fact that Mario Monti is a former employee of Goldman Sachs (a bank that often faced charges of corrupting government officials across the world), it’s safe to assume that both sides of the Italian political spectrum lack anti-corruption credentials.

18 February 2013

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Like it or lump it, Good Ol’ Silvio speaks the God-honest truth. You don’t have to agree with or like someone to acknowledge that. If you want to do business outside Western Europe or the Anglosphere, it’s best to include a hefty allowance for… ahem… “extraordinary expenses”. If one was dealing with Mobutu’s Zaïre or Batista’s Cuba (or any Good Ol’ Boy state in the Southeastern USA or some local “machines” in the Northeast (our local boss, Jerry Jennings, is smarter than that… he knows that a modest “return” ensures “repeat business”))… well, that “margin” could be very dear, indeed.



18 February 2013. You Can’t Make Up Shit Like This… Berlusconi Says He’ll Get Drunk If Monti Loses Election

Berlusconi tames the court


On Sunday, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that he was about to prepare sparkling wine to celebrate the electoral loss of caretaker premier Mario Monti and his allies. Parliamentary elections in Italyare due on 24-25 February. Speaking at a campaign event in Torino, Berlusconi said, “If Monti, Fini, and Casini don’t get into the Chamber of Deputies, I’ll get drunk. I guess it’s time to put some sparkling wine into my fridge. There’s a possibility that I’ll get drunk within the next few days”. Chamber of Deputies Speaker Gianfranco Fini responded by saying, “Berlusconi’s already drunk with all that nonsense he’s been saying”. Electoral rhetoric in austerity-hit Italy intensified as parliamentary campaign nears its end. Earlier, Berlusconi described Monti as “a person who knows nothing about economy”, whilst Monti, in his turn, called Berlusconi a “scoundrel” in his recent TV speech.

18 February 2013



Editor’s Note:

Ya gotta hand it to Ol’ Silvio… he’s a character, he knows it, and he capitalises on it. If nothing else, he’s NOT boring or staid, that’s for sure! Save me a snort, Silvio… I’ll join you… life’s a bitch, ain’t it?



Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Greek Prime Minister will Reshuffle Government Wednesday

“Let’s rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic…”


On Tuesday, Cabinet spokesman Pantelis Capsis said on TV channel ANT1 that Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos would reshuffle the Greek government no later than Wednesday, 15 February. He said, “We’ll know the Prime Minister’s decision tomorrow”, but he didn’t give any details of the changes in the composition of the cabinet. PM Papademos leads a coalition government of centre-right and centre-left parties. The main objective of the government is to implement a credit agreement with the EU and a restructuring of debt owed to private creditors adopted by parliament on Monday. After it implements these agreements, the government’s supposed to organise early parliamentary elections in April.

In recent days, the government sent mixed signals on this promise to hold early elections. One of the parties to the coalition, the centre-left, doesn’t oppose the extending Papademos’ mandate until autumn 2013, which is full extent of its four-year term. However, the centre-right, confident due to a leading position in recent polls, insisted on holding elections in April, and threatened to withdraw its support from the government if Papademos doesn’t fulfil this condition. However, the vote on the loan agreement with the EU strongly weakened both parties. The two major parties expelled more than 40 members for violation of party discipline, and the majority coalition, which originally numbered almost 80 percent of the parliament, fell to less than two-thirds of the deputies.

This strengthened the ambiguity surrounding the prime minister, due to the technical uncertainty of the realisation of the loan agreement. Greek media sources suggested that the government may appoint technocrats to the Papademos cabinet on the model of the Italian cabinet headed by Mario Monti, but it’s unknown whether the coalition partners would support such a move. Meanwhile, during the last few days, on the square in front of the Greek Parliament, and on the streets of Athens, police and protesters clashed during demonstrations, and many unions are in the streets protesting cuts in wages and pensions demanded by the new EU loan agreement. About 6,000 police are in Athens to keep order and civil peace.

14 February 2012

Voice of Russia World Service


Friday, 13 January 2012

Children of the Euro Crisis


The problems engendered by the current financial crisis forces Greek parents to abandon their own children. Many compare the current situation in Greece the devastation of the Civil War that tore apart the country after World War II

A teacher at an Athens nursery found a note from a four-year-old girl’s mother in the girl’s jacket… “Today, I didn’t come to pick up Anna, because I can’t afford to raise her. Please, take care of her. I’m sorry”. The local media made this story well-known. Not only local Greek media outlets cover such dramatic events, even British outlets cover them. According to the Daily Mail, the situation that’s arisen in the social sphere is “the most tragic consequence of the Euro zone crisis”. Staff of charities reported several somewhat similar incidents, where parents literally “surrendered” their own young children. According to the BBC, one of these organisations in Athens, SOS Children’s Villages, reported “hundreds of cases” in the last year when parents tried to abandon their children “for economic reasons”.

The last time the Greeks faced a similar situation was in the second half of the 1940s, in the post-war chaos and Civil War. The Daily Mail reported on another serious problem in Greece sparked off by the crisis, exacerbated by the economic steps taken by the government, a shortage of essential drugs. In other “problem” states, the situation is only marginally better. The new prime minister of Italy, Mario Monti, told German Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel that the government of his country has already done what it can in terms of budgetary reductions, and now have to rely on “specific assistance” from EU institutions. He pointed up that if such aid weren’t forthcoming there’d be a real threat of “a powerful anti-European turn” in the minds of the masses. Sr Monti said, “Europe isn’t only a fiscal construct. It’s very important to start putting forth constructive political energy”. According to experts at the European Central Bank, for instance, Spain could have even more serious socio-economic problems.

However, Bundeskanzlerin Merkel made it clear that she’s opposed to an “Upload” in the budgets of Greece and Italy from German taxpayers. Yelena Ponomarevna, an expert in comparative politics at the RF MID MGIMO spoke to VOR, saying, “It makes little sense in this situation to invoke a sense of collective responsibility and, moreover, to attempt to use criteria based on humanistic values. These values ​​are absent in today’s market. Therefore, socio-economic development is treated in like fashion. If there’s an increase in the market, if dislocation or humanitarian disasters occur, it doesn’t matter. Therefore, EU enlargement and the advent of a single currency zone didn’t eliminate social and economic problems and imbalances. It’s even more difficult to do so at the peak of a crisis. So, perhaps, that’s what happened to the Greeks, and to all the other people suffering from the crisis… the worst is yet to come”.

13 January 2012

Pyotr Iskenderov

Voice of Russia World Service


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