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Early life and education
In the following years Arcelli was assistant researcher in the same university. In 1963 he became professor at the University of Trieste, and in 1967 he became full professor in Economics. From 1969 to 1973 he took the chair of Economics at the University of Padua, leaving for a one-year visiting period at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) of Boston (United States). In 1974 he became full professor of economics at the La Sapienza University in Rome, where he served for about fifteen years, until 1989, and directed the Department of Economics between the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1989 he started teaching at LUISS (then LUISS Guido Carli) university of Rome, becoming chancellor in 1992 and remaining in that position until his retirement in 2002. In October 2003 he was appointed to the honorary post of professor emeritus by the university.
Mario Arcelli was appointed in 1995 member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, one of the world most important academic institutions. He was also deputy chairman of the Italian Economic Society (S.I.E.) and member of the board of the Istituto per la Enciclopedia Italiana. From 1979 until his death, he was editor of the Review of Economic Conditions in Italy.
Government adviser and minister
Arcelli was for a decade one of the main economic advisors of Italian governments, serving as Head of the Economic Affairs Department at the office of the Prime Minister between 1981 and 1983 (during Fanfani V and Spadolini I and II cabinets). He was also economic advisor of the Prime Minister in 1987 (Fanfani VI cabinet) and 1988-89 (De Mita cabinet). In those roles he was part of the Italian delegation to five G7 summits, held in Versailles, Williamsburg, Venice, Toronto and Paris.
In February 1996 he became Minister for the Budget, Economic Planning and European Affairs, during the Italian six-month turn as president of the European Union. In this role he chaired the Ecofin summit in Venice (May 1996) and continued the process that led, two years afterwards, to the birth of the euro.
Between the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was a member of several government committees, and acted as advisor of the Bank of Italy. He also was member of the scientific advisory committee of Confindustria (the association of Italian industrialists) and of several committees of the Italian Ministry of the Budget and Economic Planning.
Arcelli held a number of corporate and business appointments. He was member of the board of directors of ENI, the Italian oil group (1980–82), deputy chairman of Banco di Roma (1986-1992), member of the board of directors RAS SpA (1998-2004), of the Società per la Bonifica dei Terreni Ferraresi (1995-2004), of Pininfarina SpA (1995-2002) and of Italcementi SpA (1998-2004).