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YOU would not know it from the English-language signs promising to serve passengers quckly but Naples Capodichino airport is British-owned In August 70 of it was bought by BAA a company that also runs among other things Londons main airport Heathrow For the Italian south this is a symbol of hope Finding an international firm of this calibre willing to invest there has greatly boosted its confidence BAA for its part was attracted by the souths tourist potential but spent three years thinking hard about the 44m deal What clinched it in the end was the enthusiasm of Antonio Bassolino the mayor of Naples since 1993 He won round BAA bosses with his clear commitment to privatisation and fought off opposition at home to foreign ownership branded as colonisation by the British A former communist fundamentalist Mr Bassolino is an unlikely champion of privatisation But the BAA deal is no one-off Mr Bassolino boasts about selling the municipal dairy-What was a city council doing selling milk-and about pioneering with Merrill Lynch Italys first international municipal bond issue which sold well in America The cash was used to renovate the citys public transport system He is promoting public-private partnerships and he has just persuaded the Chinese commercial fleet to use Naples as its main container port for serving Europe The citys inefficient bureaucracy has been shaken up with the mayor leading by example His distinctly un-Neapolitan punctuality and long working hours have earned him the nickname the German Using money for hosting the G7 summit in 1994 as a catalyst the city has cleaned and restored many of its vast number of tourist attractions It has also extended its opening hours and cleared the main piazzas of parked cars though not alas of moving mopeds Mr Bassolino talks with passion of re-born civic pride of the need for Naples to solve its own problems The south has been living on
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