A report commissioned by the Istituto Nazionale per l’Analisi delle Politiche Pubbliche (INAPP), to the Centro di Ricerca e Documentazione “Luigi Einaudi”, and presented in Rome on 23 May 2017, claims that Italy lags behind other EU member states in the field of policy advice production. The report suggests changing the institutional role of INAPP to fill this gap.
Italy has no public institute that is able to provide strategic and scientific advice to the national government on a range of key policy domains such as the welfare state and the economy, according to a report by the Turin-based Centro di Ricerca e Documentazione “Luigi Einaudi”. “In an age of growing complexity and political contestation, decision makers need scientific policy advice more than ever”, the authors of the report, Maurizio Ferrera, Anton Hemerijck and Maria Tullia Galanti, claim.
Whereas other national institutional outlooks in Europe benefit from the activity of independent research bodies that are closely linked to the government, in Italy most publicly funded institutes of that sort provide just regular monitoring or implementation studies.
The comparative study was presented on the occasion of a public meeting at INAPP (Istituto Nazionale per l’Analisi delle Politiche Pubbliche), in Rome on May 23, in the presence of public intellectuals, former ministers, judges, and members of parliament from the Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Star Movement (M5S).
Whereas other national institutional outlooks in Europe benefit from the activity of independent research bodies that are closely linked to the government, in Italy most publicly funded institutes of that sort provide just regular monitoring or implementation studies. On the contrary, “strategic, medium- and long-term studies are becoming ever more important” to the success of executives, the authors argue. In the Netherlands, for instance, the Scientific Council for Government Policies (WRR) provides analysis through the publication of regular strategic reports, targeted to the government and a variety of other institutional actors. Similarly, in Sweden the Institute for Future Studies (IFSS) provides forward-looking orientations to national decision makers.
Notwithstanding the institutional variety in Europe, the report points to some elements that are shared by the most successful policy advice institutes. In the first place, policy advice structures that feature “managerial independency” show a higher degree of scientific credibility and rely on a better skilled staff. Whereas autonomy does not imply a fully fledged financial independence—most policy advice institutes benefit from a direct cash line from national governments—the directors of the research bodies have extensive discretion as to how to allocate resources. More importantly, the directors have a say on the thematic focus of multi-annual research plans, thus limiting the instrumental use of scientific research for partisan objectives.
Secondly, for policy advice structures to become successful, they need to be formally and legally recognized within broader legislative procedures. In other words, “decision makers need to be accountable with respect to the scientific evidence that is provided by policy advice institutions”, the report says.
According to Maurizio Ferrera, “filling the gap in the field of policy advice, would help Italy to solve many of the problems linked to its sclerotic welfare state”. Above all, it would enable Italy to shift the logic of production of social policies “away from political interests”. Drawing on Max Weber’s insights into social reality, Maria Tullia Galanti, argued that policy advice structures are not there “to tell the truth” to policymakers, but to “show the range of potential solutions to a given social problem, in a specific moment in time”. Moreover, in certain circumstances, scientific policy advice can also help decision makers to “understand what they want to do”.
We need to develop a new comprehensive approach which takes into account the demographic transition and is based on an inclusive labour market that fosters lifelong learning opportunities for individuals.
Speaking after the presentation of the report, Stefano Sacchi, the President of INAPP, called for his institute to “take up the challenge highlighted by the research”. Sharing the results and proposals of the study, Sacchi said that INAPP could become more similar to other policy advice bodies in Europe: “INAPP could become an independent, publicly funded research institute that focuses on social investment strategies”, he said. As such, “INAPP could serve as a main reference point for European policy advice institutions, as well as for the European Commission officials in the framework of the European Semester working schedule”, Ferrera added.
Commenting on the report, Maurizio Sacconi, a former Italian Minister of Labour and currently Chair of the Italian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Employment and Social Care, said that strategic analysis in the domain of social policies is needed as the Italian welfare system is still a product of the second industrial revolution. “We need to develop a new comprehensive approach which takes into account the demographic transition and is based on an inclusive labour market that fosters lifelong learning opportunities for individuals”, Sacconi said. “Any future strategic research body needs to be grounded in an international network, and become a reference point for both the central state administration, as well as for regional authorities”, he added.
In Italy, decision-makers are usually not interested in policy advice, but only in justificatory arguments for policy actions that were already taken.
Luigi Casio, Chief of staff to the Italian Minister of Employment and Social Policy, said that “policy advice bodies are useful not only for decision makers, but also for the citizenry at large, given that the latter is steering the politics of the country ultimately”. Likewise, Vice-Secretary General to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Luigi Fiorentino, argued that “smoothing out the relations between intellectuals and decision makers is key to ameliorating the ability of democracies to deliver concrete solutions to the problems of citizens”.
However, on a more negative note, Sabino Cassese, a former justice of the Italian Constitutional Court, stressed that “in Italy, decision-makers are usually not interested in policy advice, but only in justificatory arguments for policy actions that were already taken”. “The logic of politics obscures the logics of policies, and action”, he claimed. Consequently, he said that there is a “need to shed light on the whole process of policy development”. The latter implies “highlighting accountability mechanisms and public responsibilities with reference to the different stages of agenda setting, policy definition, monitoring and correction”. “These steps are the essential to deliberative democracy”, he said.
Nunzia Catalfo, an MP of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Care of the Italian Senate, stressed the need for a “monitoring body” that is “independent from the government”. Developing its future research agenda, “INAPP needs to take into account that different policy domains are more intertwined than ever”, she said. Consequently “the institute needs to be grounded in a wider network of research institutes”, she concluded.
However, Cesare Damiano, a Democratic Party (PD) MP, former Minister of Labour and currently Chair of the Standing Committee on Employment, claimed that “rather than short-term monitoring, what is needed is a medium- to long-term approach that is able to provide a horizon of shared political values”. “The absence of public policy advice structures weakens the strength of national governments, even in the face of organised lobbies”, Damiano warned.
Photo Credits CC Sebastiaan ter Burg
Also published on Medium.