'New Bribesville' hits Italy Inc before election
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All of Italy's main parties have been implicated in graft, leaving many voters with the feeling that little has changed since the "Tangentopoli" scandals.
Among analysts there is, however, some sympathy for Berlusconi's view that Finmeccanica may be suffering for tougher enforcement in Italy than, they believe, in competitor nations against bribing foreign officials to win international tenders.
"For companies such as Finmeccanica, corruption is in a way the result of globalisation; it's the hidden price that a company must pay to get access to certain markets," said Stefano Zamagni, a professor of economics at the University of Bologna.
"It is obvious that the economic damage is great."
Other major exporting countries also prosecute companies in similar cases of corrupting foreign officials to make sales.
Many in business say they welcome efforts by Monti, a former EU commissioner who is now running for office as a centrist, to crack down on corruption among Italian officials and hope the next administration can help improve their country's reputation.
Though less ambitious that Monti's original proposal, parliament endorsed new measures in November to increase penalties for demanding bribes and other abuses of office.
"The current government has managed to push through an anti-corruption law. This is maybe not exactly what people had hoped for but it is nonetheless a step forward," said Sandro De Poli, chief executive of U.S. industrial giant GE's Italian arm.
"The issue has now been raised and I hope the next government can do better."
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