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Italy to unveil recovery plan worth 221b euros centered on investment

By EARLE GALE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-23 09:51
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A man wearing a face mask takes a rest near a grey heron at the Sempione park, after Lombardy was downgraded from a red to an orange zone, loosening the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions including allowing non-essential shops to re-open, in Milan, Italy, April 13, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Italy is set to give the green light to a restructuring plan that will include massive investments in high-speed rail, green energy, and the digitalization of government services.

The plan, which the country's new prime minister, Mario Draghi, hopes will breathe life into an economy in its deepest recession since World War II, will cost 221 billion euros ($307 billion), the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

The paper said it is expected to be officially unveiled next week.

Draghi, who has been prime minister of a unity government since Feb 13 and who was president of the European Central Bank from 2011 to 2019, reportedly favors a "radical restructuring of Italy's economy" to help it bounce back from economic devastation caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Financial Times said the overhaul will draw heavily on the European Union's 750-billion-euro pandemic recovery fund, which is largely aimed at redirecting money from wealthier less-impacted EU nations toward hardhit Italy and Spain.

The Telegraph newspaper said Italy suffered an 8.9 percent fall in GDP last year because of the pandemic, making it one of Europe's major virus victims.

Italy's Confindustria business lobbying group said, without a recovery package, the economy was predicted to rebound slowly this year, and was not expected to be behaving normally until the end of 2022.

Draghi, who was governor of the Bank of Italy between 2006 and 2011, will seek his Cabinet's approval of the plan in the coming days, and then ask for the backing of Parliament next week.

The overhaul will reportedly be paid for through 30 billion euros of Italian budgetary resources and 191.5 billion euros of EU loans and grants, unnamed sources told the Financial Times.

After several years of political division in Italy and months of economic freefall, Vincenzo Amendola, Italy's minister for European affairs, recently told the New York Times newspaper that Draghi is exactly the sort of leader the nation and the EU now needs.

"The difference is that everybody, when Mario Draghi speaks, knows that he is not just pushing, boosting the Italian interest," Amendola said. "You need stable leaders who bring confidence."

If Draghi's Cabinet supports his recovery plan, which the Bloomberg business news service said is detailed within a 200-page report that includes 500 charts, he will require the support of lawmakers before taking it to the EU for its approval.

The plan is also understood to call for more investment in the nation's electricity grid, new hydrogen power projects, and public buildings being made energy-efficient.

Draghi is also understood to want to overhaul Italy's outdated and slow legal system, and to be targeting a cutting of the red tape in place in some local regions that he believes is hindering growth.

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