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Italy to reduce number of lawmakers from 945 to 600.

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Italy’s parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved slashing the number of lawmakers, a move the left-leaning government hopes will help keep the far-right from power.

Reducing the number of MPs and senators in Italy by 345 was a flagship manifesto promise of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which rules in coalition with the country’s centre-left, and promised voters it would tackle political elitism and wasteful spending.

The move, linked to broader electoral law reforms, was passed by 553 MPs, with just 14 voting against and two abstentions.

“It’s done!” the M5S said on its blog. “Promise kept.”

Italy currently has the second-highest number of lawmakers in the EU after Britain — some 630 elected representatives in the lower house and 315 in the Senate.

The constitutional reform, which could be subjected to a popular referendum in the coming months, cuts the number of MPs to 400 and senators to 200 from the next legislature, with an expected saving of some 100 million euros ($110 million) a year.

“It’s a well-balanced reform with an excellent profile,” legal expert Guido Neppi Modona told Il Fatto Quotidiano on Monday.

A reduced number of lawmakers will “lead parties to take particular care in choosing candidates,” he said.

Critics have warned such a cut could affect popular representation, and increase the influence of lobbyists over governing institutions — all for a minimal saving that will have little effect on debt-laden Italy’s budget balance.

– Mere horse trading? –
This is the country’s eighth attempt to cut its number of lawmakers since 1983, according to the Open news website.

Five Star (M5S) made the cut a condition of its alliance with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), following the collapse of the previous, far-right coalition in August.

The PD had previously voted against the reductions but agreed to support them if it meant clinching a deal with the M5S which would prevent a return to the polls and keep far-right leader Matteo Salvini out of power.

The party has insisted the cut be followed by a new electoral law and is pushing for the reintroduction of a proportional representation system.

Under the current mix of proportional representation and first-past-the-post systems, a winning coalition needs more than 40 per cent of the vote to have the necessary parliamentary majority.

With full proportional representation, parties or coalitions would need a much bigger majority to form a government.

– ‘Why the haste?’ –
That would force League leader Salvini to ditch any plans to run alone or with a small fellow far-right party at the next election, and force him instead to turn to former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italy party for help, the weekly L’Espresso said.

“Why the haste to cut the seats?” constitutional expert Massimo Luciani said in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, pointing out that the coalition government — an unlikely alliance of former foes — could fall before changes to the electoral law can be made.

“To avoid ‘surprises’, the package of reforms should be launched at the same time,” he said.

Lorenzo Codogno, former chief economist at the Italian Treasury Department, told AFP the pressing need to change the electoral law could serve as glue to hold the coalition together.

He warned however that “I have a feeling that (the electoral law) won’t happen very soon”.

International markets and European investors watching the stability of the new coalition were right “to worry about everything,” he said.

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Buhari says if the government get infrastructure right, Nigerians will not care about governance.

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said that if the Federal Government was able to put in place the right infrastructure in different sectors of the economy, Nigerians would not be so concerned about “who’s in government.”

Buhari, who said this via his verified Twitter handle, added that his government was doing its best to provide infrastructure within the available resources

He said that he believes that with the right infrastructure, Nigeria would prosper.

The president tweeted, “I firmly believe that if we get infrastructure right in Nigeria, our roads, rail, ports; Nigerians will mind their businesses, many people will not even care who is in government. A country like ours, full of entrepreneurial energy and potential, will prosper.

“This is why Infrastructure will continue to be one of our primary focus areas. We must & will rewrite the story, for this dear country of ours. I wish we had even more resources, and we are working on this, but we are doing our best within the resources currently available to us.”

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Zainab Ahmed: ‘Why should Nigeria be borrowing fresh $3bn from World Bank’

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The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed has said the $3bn loan being sought by the Federal Government from the World Bank would be deployed for reforms in the power sector.

She said this during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings holding in Washington DC, United States.

Ahmed, who is leading the Federal Government’s delegation to the meeting said she would be holding further discussions with the management of the Bank to present how the fund would be disbursed for the project.

She said based on the plan of the Federal Government for the power sector, the loan would be used for the development of transmission and distribution networks to enhance the delivery of electricity.

READ ALSO: Alleged destruction of evidence: Court dismisses Metuh’s no-case submission

Ahmed also said the loan would be used in addressing some of the challenges that the country is currently facing in the power sector.

She said, “There is a proposed $2.5bn to $3bn facility for the power sector development programme in Nigeria and this will include development of the transmission networks and the distribution networks as well as removing the challenges that we currently have now in the electricity sector.

“We are going to have a full meeting to discuss the power sector recovery programme and back home we have been working a great deal with the World Bank to design how this programme will be implemented.

“So we have an opportunity now to have a direct meeting with the leadership of the bank and to tell them the plan we have and how much we need from one to five years.”

The finance minister explained that the government would be pushing for the disbursement of the $3bn facility in two tranches of $1.5bn each.

When asked to comment on concerns being raised by the IMF about Nigeria’s debt which stands at N25.7tn the finance minister insists that Nigeria does not have a debt problem.

She said what the government needed to do is to increase its revenue-generating capacity in order to boost the revenue to about 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

She said with Nigeria’s current revenue to GDP ratio standing at just 19 per cent, it’s underperformance is significantly straining the government’s ability to service its debt obligation.

The minister said, “Nigeria does not have a debt problem. What we have is a revenue problem.

“Our revenue to GDP is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It’s about 19 per cent of GDP and what the World Bank and IMF recommended is about 50 per cent of GDP for countries that are our size. We are not there yet. What we have is a revenue problem.

“The underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt and to service government day-to-day recurrent expenditure and that is why all the work we are doing at the ministry of finance is concentrating on driving the increase in revenue.”

When asked why the Federal Government decided to increase the revenue projection in the 2020 budget to N8.9tn at a time when government revenue performance is less than 60 per cent, she said a lot of measures are being put in place to correct the anomaly.

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Obaseki criticised by PDP over suspension of Edo APC LG chairmen.

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The Peoples Democratic Party has criticized Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State for removing four council chairmen, elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress from office.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that the four council chairmen were removed from office between August 2 and October 10 this year.

The Chairman of the PDP in Edo, Chief Dan Orbih, said it was wrong and unconstitutional for the governor to remove anyone constitutionally elected by the people from office.

Orbih was speaking on Wednesday in Benin after receiving an award bestowed on him by the Edo State Chapter of the Coalition of Registered Political Parties.

Represented by the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Edo, Mr Chris Nehikhare, Orbih said it was disheartening and rape of democracy for a democratically elected governor to remove an equally democratically elected Local Government Area chairman.

The party stalwart was referring to the recent suspension of the council chairmen in Edo by the governor. All of the removed chairmen were elected on the platform of the ruling APC.

The suspended council chairmen are Mr Aremiyau Momih of Etsako East, Mr Yakson Musa of Etsako West, Ms Eghe Ogbemudia of Egor and Mr Patrick Aguinede of Esan West.

It will be recalled that Obaseki has similarly, sacked secretaries in all the 18 Local Government Councils, citing corruption and abuse of office by the sacked officials.

Orbih, however, asked the governor to reverse the sacking, arguing that removing elected officials by another elected official was undemocratic and ultra vires.

“These chairmen were not appointed by the governor but were elected by the people in their respective council areas.

“The governor knows very well that for any action to be taken against the chairmen, such action must emanate from the Edo State House of Assembly after due investigation.

“But the present action of the governor certainly points towards a fallout of the political differences between him and his predecessor.

“They should not allow their internal crisis or differences to affect the people of Edo State.”

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