Economist magazine in fresh attack on Berlusconi

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Britain's influential The Economist magazine condemned Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in its latest edition Friday for having "screwed" his country by saddling it with major economic problems.

The front page showed a picture of the smiling playboy premier with the headline "The man who screwed an entire country", and inside an editorial condemned Berlusconi as a "disastrous, even malign failure".

It echoes the edition published ahead of Italy's 2001 elections in which the magazine declared Berlusconi "unfit to lead", prompting him to unsuccessfully sue for defamation.

Barely a fortnight after Berlusconi suffered a humiliating defeat in local elections on May 30, The Economist warned he would have a toxic legacy.

Brushing aside his trial for sex with an underage call girl and his "financial shenanigans" over the years, it focused on what it described as "his total disregard for the economic condition of his country".

The pro-business magazine said that although Italy had so far escaped the wrath of the markets, its budget deficit was less than France's and its banks survived the financial crisis, "these reassuring numbers are deceptive".

"Italy's economic illness is not the acute sort, but a chronic disease that slowly gnaws away at vitality. When Europe's economies shrink, Italy's shrinks more; when they grow, it grows less," it said in an editorial.

"As our special report in this week's issue points out, only Zimbabwe and Haiti had lower GDP growth than Italy in the decade to 2010. In fact GDP per head in Italy actually fell."

The public debt is 120 percent of GDP, the third biggest in the rich world, it said, and noted that despite low average unemployment, a quarter of young people are jobless.

The magazine lamented: "He might have done much more had he used his vast power and popularity to do something other than protect his own interests."

© 2011 AFP

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