Italy’s Clown Prince: Monti ‘Needs to Disappear’
Staff Writer, CNBC.com
The anarchic comedian and blogger who leads one of Italy's most rapidly-growing political parties has told CNBC that Prime Minister Mario Monti is a mere "bankruptcy curator" who "needs to disappear."
Beppe Grillo, the dishevelled stand-up comic whose severe criticism of Italy's mainstream politicians has helped his party, the Five Star Movement, gain the support of close to 15 percent of Italians in recent polls, said: "Monti was as the Americans say a "bluff", a bubble. Our country went bankrupt last year but half of the debt was in French and German banks. "
"Had we gone bankrupt last year, Europe would have ended.So they sent in Monti to manage the situation in order for the German andFrench banks to get their money back."
(Read More: Grillo Surfs Anti-Establishment Wave)
The announcement that Monti will step down as Prime Minister before the expected time, after losing the support of Silvio Berlusconi's party, has put heavily-indebted Italy firmly back on the euro zone agenda this week. Monti was viewed as a safe pair of hands in Italian politics,often dominated by larger-than-life characters like Berlusconi or satirist Grillo – who dismissed the current administration as "amateur parasites."
However, Grillo, who worked as an accountant beforestarting his career in comedy, believes that the imposition of austerity lawsbacked by other euro zone leaders and accepting more backing from the ECB ishurting Italy. Grillo rarely gives TV interviews as he prefers the medium of blogging, but spoke to CNBC in Milan.
(Read More: Italy's Next Leader: Neither Comedian Nor Cavalier)
"The ECB puts out money that is meant to help our banks,but they do not use it to finance our businesses, but they give it to them to buy back their debt, to help French and German banks. That was Monti's work," he said.
Elections in Italy are now expected in late February or early March. While Grillo has said in the past he does not want to stand for office or become part of a coalition, his party could still influence government if it gets a significant share of the vote.
The Monti government is currently trying to put through a law which would stop convicted criminals becoming members of the Italian parliament, a move that would rule Grillo out because he was convicted for manslaughter in 1981 after he crashed his car on a mountain road, killing his three passengers.
Meanwhile, Grillo has said his party would reject any attempt by Italy to seek assistance from the ECB's outright monetary transactions (OMT) program, the cheap debt widely viewed as a potential savior for both Italy and Spain.
"The OMT would just mean more debt," Grillo said. "We want to interrupt the increase in debt. We have to stop the strangling and reschedule the debt with close to zero interest rates. We cannot afford it. This beautiful country is dying."
Grillo attacked bond markets for raising the cost of Italian debt and claimed the current rise in yields is "mental hallucination created by speculation in the banking sector."
(Read More: Italian Banks and Bonds in Trouble)
"The spread is completely detached from the real economy…(and) created by speculation in the banking sector. Because half of the Italian debt is owned by foreign banks. And these banks try to get higher rates in order to earn more. So we are a victim of banking speculation of both foreign and domestic banks….which are detached from the real economy," he said.
"We need to stop the vicious cycle of debt that is strangling us."
Written by Catherine Boyle, CNBC. Twitter: @cboylecnbc.