Martedì, 25 Settembre 2018

Economy min sees light at end of record recession


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, July 2 - Italy's economy minister saw light
at the end of Italy's deepest recession in over 20 years on
Tuesday, but other officials were less optimistic.
Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni on Tuesday told a
meeting of the powerful employers' association Confindustria:
"There are a number of signs of improvement even in
Italy...signs that the economy is recovering".
Saccomanni said he expected a "very significant impact on
the economic cycle in the second part of the year, and
particularly in the fourth quarter".
But the head of Confindustria was among those sending a
different message as firms continue to close at dizzying speed,
unemployment has reached its highest since the current method of
evaluation began, at 12%, and the association's research centre
was recently forced to revise downwards its 2013 growth forecast
to -1.9%.
"I deeply respect Saccomanni, but I truly don't see signs
of light yet," said Giorgio Squinzi, president of Confindustria.
"May was better than April, June (better) than May, but
industrial production in June is down 1.7% on an annual basis.
"We're nearing the bottom but towards the end of the year I
think we'll start climbing again," Squinzi said.
Confindustria's research centre reported last week that it
no longer expected the recession to end in the summer, saying "a
weak recovery" should start in the fourth quarter.
It also revised down its growth forecast for 2014 from 0.6%
to 0.5%.
"In the sixth year of crisis, there are signs here and
there of the end of the fall and, more randomly, indications of
a turning point," the report said.
"There's a mixed bunch of scattered evidence that makes it
possible to perceive the start of the recovery, although this
does not represent a solid basis to forecast it".
However, Saccomanni insisted that the government could make
a recent postponement of a planned VAT hike permanent, helping
the economy recover.
"The scheduled rise from 21% to 22% (in the top band)
should be avoided and at least that won't depress spending and
hit the worse-off," he said.
By the summer recess, he added, he hoped the unprecedented
coalition government of long-feuding conservative and
progressive parties would also find a compromise between its
right and left wings on scrapping or merely changing an
unpopular property tax called IMU.
Industry Minister Flavio Zanonato echoed Saccomanni in
saying "the VAT hike must be avoided at all costs", and we have
to get things moving on the jobs front too.
Labour Minister Enrico Giovannini voiced confidence that
the job-creation funds earmarked for Italy by the European Union
at last week's EU summit could be put to "the best use
He called on trade unions to do their part by showing wage
"We're all in the same boat, and we all have to keep
pulling in the same direction," he said.
Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini told a parliamentary
debate that unless there was an improvement in jobs, "there is a
real risk of social unrest".
Work was particularly needed among the young, with 38% of
people in the 15-to-24 bracket out of work, she said.
"Unless we come up with solid answers for the long-term
unemployed and the younger 'lost generation'," she said, "I
can't see how the situation won't precipitate into major
Premier Enrico Letta's left-right government has said
fighting unemployment, especially among the young, is its top
priority, although it is having trouble finding money to finance
efforts for job creation.
Confindustria has called for labour taxes to be cut to
encourage firms to hire workers.
But ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL)
party, whose support Letta needs to keep his executive afloat,
has said first the government must scrap IMU and avert the 1%
VAT rise scheduled to kick in later this year.
The administration has made some progress though.
Last week the cabinet passed a package of tax breaks to
encourage firms to take on young people that it hopes will
create 200,000 new jobs.
These measures are aimed at the young people worse equipped
to face up to the effects of the recession, such as those
without a high-school diploma, those living alone and those who
have another person depending on them.
On Friday the EU summit approved a package to combat youth
unemployment worth up to nine billion euros, after Letta
insisted the issue be at the top of the agenda.
Letta hailed the outcome as a victory for Rome because the
largest single chunk of the money, 1.5 billion euros, would go
to Italy, although members of the PdL derided this as "crumbs".
Giovannini defended the record of the government, which was
sworn in late in April.
"The decree the government passed to boost employment,
starting from young people, is not a drop in the ocean," he
"We've done a lot. We know there's still lots to do but
it's not right to always write things off by saying much more is
"We've had an important signal from Europe that shows it
wants to go beyond austerity policies".
Squinzi said that the latest unemployment figures were
"unfortunately ones that we expected" and reflected the
"performance of the real economy".
He added that the government had made "small steps in the
right direction" and that it is necessary "to do more, with more

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