Grillo's 5 Star Movement can count on Stiglitz star-power

Nobel prize-winning economist to help with economics platform

Grillo's 5 Star Movement can count on Stiglitz star-power

Ancona, February 26 - Comedian Beppe Grillo, the surprise, true winner of Italy's inconclusive February 24-25 elections, has a secret card up his sleeve: an economic ''guru'' with close ties to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz. For his economics policies the Genoese comedian turns to Mauro Gallegati, an economics professor at the Polytechnic University of the Marche region who has taught at Cambridge and Columbia University and has worked with Stiglitz. Gallegati says that there is much ''misinformation'' regarding Grillo's Five Star Movement's (M5S) economic policies. A former town councilor and ''grillino'' (as Grillo's supporters are called) from the movement's beginnings, Gallegati is an expert in welfare policy with extensive international experience. Along with a few others, Gallegati was picked to set up a ''task force to help the newly elected in parliament.'' The task force's job will be to educate the Five Star representatives on policy. Aside from this task, Gallegati is also putting the finishing touches to a journal article - written together with Stiglitz - on how to redistribute income and which will form the basis of the Five Star Movement's policy platform in parliament: ''Hit the richest with taxes.'' In Gallegati's view, the rich are those, for example, with private planes. Also part of the M5S platform is a reform to the labor market which protects the workers and not necessarily a worker's work place. ''It's a completely different approach from that'' currently being followed, Gallegati says. ''We have to invent totally new professions, placing bets on culture and tourism, otherwise who will pay today's unprotected workers when they retire?'' asks the economist. ''To my children I always say: 'when I die put my body in the refrigerator so you can keep collecting my pension','' Gallegati jokes. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel prize in economics in 2001 while a member of Columbia University's faculty, will not work directly on the M5S platform, Gallegati says, ''but he will give us a hand. As will one of his closest collaborators, Bruce Greenwald, the guru of gurus on Wall Street.'' Stiglitz has published a string of bestsellers including Fair Trade For All (2005) and Making Globalization Work (2006). Last year's The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future laid out a wide-ranging agenda to create a more dynamic economy and fairer and more equal society. The blurb said: "As those at the top continue to enjoy the best health care, education, and benefits of wealth, they often fail to realize that, as Stiglitz highlights, 'their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live...It does not have to be this way'."

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