Italy education chief quits over lack of funds for ministry

Gavin Jones –

Italian Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti said on Wednesday he had resigned after failing to obtain from the government billions of euros he said were needed to improve the country’s schools and universities.
The resignation is a blow to the embattled government, whose ruling parties are at odds on issues ranging from euro zone reform to migrant rights.
It also underscores the problems of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, Fioramonti’s party, which is trying to reorganise amid widespread internal dissatisfaction with its leader Luigi Di Maio.
Fioramonti said he had tendered his “irrevocable resignation” to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in a letter on December 23.
This month three 5-Star senators jumped ship to join the right-wing League in opposition.
Fioramonti said shortly after the government of 5-Star and the centre-left Democratic Party was formed in September that he would quit unless education spending was raised by 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in the 2020 budget.
Few believed him, even as the budget continued its passage through parliament and it became clear the government had little intention of hiking taxes or cutting spending to find the funds he demanded. The budget was approved on Monday ahead of a December 31 deadline.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that a minister keeps his word,” Fioramonti said in an interview.
Fioramonti said he would still support the government in parliament, where he is a lower house deputy.
Italy spends 3.6 per cent of gross domestic product on primary to university education, compared with an average of 5 per cent among 32 countries in a report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. As a proportion of public spending, Italy came bottom in the OECD.
Fioramonti, a former economics professor at South Africa’s Pretoria University, has been one of Italy’s most outspoken ministers during his three months in office.
His proposals for new taxes on airline tickets, plastic and sugary foods to raise funds for education were attacked by critics who said Italians were already over-taxed.
A vocal supporter of green policies, Fioramonti made headlines when he announced Italy would next year become the first country to make it compulsory for schoolchildren to study climate change and sustainable development. — Reuters