Rome, April 26 2021: Major portions of Italy are all set to drop to “yellow” alert levels as the country ponders the utilization and the outcomes of the 22 Billion Euro EU funded recovery fund. Non-essential service category businesses such as bars, restaurants, cinemas and other entertainment venues will begin to partially re-open their doors for serving customers on premises and will be allowed to remain open till 10pm.
Workers in the hospitality industry breathe a sigh of relief and indicate this as return to normality after Italy’s economy became the most ravaged European economy following the impact of by the pandemic. Restrictions aimed at limiting the second and third wave of the virus will be lifted as initially, cinemas, theaters and concert venues will operate at 50% capacity and this will be followed by the re-opening of the pools, gyms, parks and sporting arenas on July 1.
Facing pressure from various regional governments and protests by citizens have led Prime Minister Mario Draghi to take what he calls a “calculated risk” to counter a recession worse than anything the country has seen since World War II. With vaccination roll outs gaining momentum, infection rates and number of ICU admissions have been falling but the country is still recording an average 300 deaths daily taking the total to 119,000 this month. Italy which has a total population of 60 million, has so far managed to administer 17.5 million jabs.
The GIMBE foundation think tank head, Nino Cartabellota says there is a risk that the gradual reopening may be seen as a free for al pass and result in a surge of infections compromising the gains that have allowed this summer to be a relatively normal one.
The first European county to be hit by the coronavirus, Italy remains one of the worst affected in the continent, with the EU’s highest reported death toll and one of the deepest recessions. This is indicated by the economy that contracted by 8.9 percent last year and one million people who experienced job losses. The EU has funded a whooping 222Billion relief package for the country making Rome the biggest recipient of the bloc’s 750-billion-euro post-pandemic recovery fund.The plan is expected to boost growth by 3.6% by 2026.
The government is pinning its hopes on what they call a historic intervention that will address the structural weaknesses inherent in the Italian economy while also addressing its Green targets. Infrastructure development under the program will include a focus on renewable power projects and digitalization.
The disadvantaged demographics of women and young people who were disproportionately bigger losers following the pandemic will be helped and the under performing Southern Italy will be a higher priority in a country with deep disparity between the South and the relatively more prosperous North.
Premier Draghi who has been dubbed “Super Mario” is expected to formally present the plan for debate in the parliament on Monday ahead of a Friday deadline to submit the package to Brussels. Formerly a European Central Bank Chief, Draghi, also highlighted the importance of reform, and the plan sets out ambitious targets for modernizing public administration and the notoriously snail-paced justice system.
The previous government was brought down while disputes arose over how to pace the recovery and the focus areas of attention, after which Draghi stepped in to lead a national unity government in February this year. Draghi who enjoys wide support in parliament will have a lot more room to maneuver according to Natixis economist Jesus Castillo.
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