M.O.S.E. (not Moses the prophet) has been the undisputed Venetian protagonist as of recent. It saved Venice from “acqua alta”, the typical Venetian phenomenon characterised by a peak high tide affecting the city usually in autumn and winter. In the past few days in Venice, thanks to M.O.S.E., it simply rained!
While acqua alta is popular among tourists, it is a calamity for both the buildings and the
population. M.O.S.E. stands for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (Experimental
Electromechanical Module), it protects Venice and the Venetian lagoon from flooding. The
system is located at the inlets of Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia, the three gates of the
coastal cordon through which the tide spreads from the Adriatic Sea into the Lagoon. There
are 4 defense barriers: 2 at the inlet of Lido (the one closest to Venice which is twice the size
of the other two and is made up of 2 channels with different depths) which are respectively
composed of 21 gates; one in the north channel and 20 in the south channel.
It was conceived almost 40 years ago, for the worst-case scenario (at the time) of a sea level
rise of 30 centimetres. In a century, however, the water level will rise by at least one meter.
It was conceived almost 40 years ago, for the worst-case scenario (at the time) of a sea levell now costs 240,000 Euros. Constructions started in 2003. The work was supposed to be ready in 2016, but was tested for the first time on October 3, 2020. MOSE is a US$ 6 billion infrastructure with a yearly maintenance cost of US$ 100 million.
While M.O.S.E. represents a stereotypical example of Italy’s red-tape and bureaucracy, Mario Draghi started a number of strategic structural reforms to address the obstacles to a
vibrating and dynamic economy. These reforms are conditional for accessing the European
Next Generation EU (NGEU) fund. Emulating the Marshall plan, it provides financial support
to EU member states to recover from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The
recovery plan totals € 750 billion (US$ 804 billion). At its core is the Recovery and Resilience
Facility, providing € 672.5 billion (US$ 722 billion), comprised of 46% grants and 54% loans.
The aim is to support reforms and investments in each member State in labor markets,
competition, fiscal discipline, public administration and the administration of justice. Italy
will be by far the number one beneficiary, € 250 billion.
Italians have now realized that investments such as M.O.S.E. (that was opposed by many over its long history) are critical to their well-being and economic growth. While opposition is
frequent, ideologically there appears to be a bipartisan convergence on the infrastructure
front. This will be put to test shortly as regasification terminals are needed to mitigate
Italian dependence on natural gas imported from Russia.