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In the mid-1990s successive Italian governments, desperate not to be left out of the euro, pushed through some impressive reforms.
However shameful the sexual scandal has been, its impact on Mr Berlusconi's performance as a politician has been limited, so this newspaper has largely ignored it.
The Bank of Italy's outgoing governor, Mario Draghi, spelt things out recently in a hard-hitting farewell speech (before taking the reins at the European Central Bank). Ambitious young Italians are quitting their country in droves, leaving power in the hands of an elderly and out-of-touch elite.
He insisted that the economy desperately needs big structural reforms. Few Europeans despise their pampered politicians as much as Italians do.
We have, however, long protested about his second failing: his financial shenanigans.
Over the years, he has been tried more than a dozen times for fraud, false accounting or bribery.
His defenders claim that he has never been convicted, but this is untrue.
Several cases have seen convictions, only for them to be set aside because the convoluted proceedings led to trials being timed out by a statute of limitations—at least twice because Mr Berlusconi himself changed the law.This is all the more worrying given the rapid ageing of Italy's population.Low average unemployment disguises some sharp variations.A mix of low productivity and high wages is eroding competitiveness: whereas productivity rose by a fifth in America and a tenth in Britain in the decade to 2010, in Italy it fell by 5%.Italy comes 80th in the World Bank's “Doing Business” index, below Belarus and Mongolia, and 48th in the World Economic Forum's competitiveness rankings, behind Indonesia and Barbados.In the short term, this will hurt; in the long term, it should give the peripheral economies new zip.