Boundaries, Structures and Strategies
Edited by Andrea Colli and Michelangelo Vasta
* Pier Angelo Toninelli and Michelangelo Vasta INTRODUCTION Italian economic growth had long been penalised by structural frailties such as a narrow internal market, a shortage of capital, financial weakness and a decline of entrepreneurial initiative. On the whole, these elements have contributed to the emergence of a large state-owned enterprise (henceforth SOE). It was actually since the unification of the Kingdom in 1861 that finance represented a sector in dire need of special attention from the government as Italy was suffering both from chronic instability and from a shortage of intermediaries (Confalonieri 1974–6, 1982; Bonelli 1978). If the founding of a few German-type universal banks in the 1890s had provided a partial remedy for the latter, it conversely increased the potential instability of the system, which came close to the breaking point in the early 1930s. The envisaged solution was quite original and efficacious: a special body – Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI)1 – was created for the purpose. It was a state-owned enterprise which took over all the banks’ industrial investments, while the banks themselves came under its control. In the period following the Second World War, the Italian government, unlike the governments of other defeated powers, not only resisted pressure to divest public properties progressively and to encourage a free market ideology, but also gradually enlarged its control over the economy – particularly over finance and banking, industrial production and transport – through what was to become in short an organised shareholding system. IRI stood out as the main...
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