Silvio Berlusconi was on Wednesday accused of trying to buy votes just days before Italy’s general election after sending a letter to millions of households promising to refund a much-hated property tax.
This is what politicians do at election time, isn’t it? Buy votes by explaining their policies?
The letters were sent out by the billionaire’s centre-Right PDL party as Italians prepare to vote on Sunday and Monday, in one of the country’s most important elections for years.
Mr Berlusconi’s political rivals said the letters were misleading because at first glance they looked like official rebate notices from the Italian inland revenue.
But they could well produce a last-minute surge in support for Mr Berlusconi – a poll this month found that nearly 40 per cent of voters favoured the idea of being reimbursed for the IMU tax, which was introduced by the caretaker government of Mario Monti, the outgoing prime minister.
Economists, however, have estimated that the tax rebate would cost the cash-strapped country up to eight billion euros, at a time when it is struggling to emerge from one of the deepest recessions since the Second World War.
The letters came in official-looking envelopes which were marked “Important notice: reimbursement of IMU 2012″.
That’s a pretty cool stunt actually. And as to the “struggling to emerge from recession” part. Isn’t that what the correct fiscal policy is? Increasing the gap between what the government collects in taxes and what it spends? Or do we abandon Keynesianism when it’s being proposed by someone we don’t like?