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ECONOMY

Italy’s economic policies will hit the poor hardest: IMF

Economic policies implemented by the populist government in Rome leave Italy's economy vulnerable to recession, with the poorest likely to suffer the most, the IMF warned.

Italy's economic policies will hit the poor hardest: IMF
Italy's economic policies could lead to recession, the IMF said. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

“The authorities' policies could leave Italy vulnerable to a renewed loss of market confidence,” an International Monetary Fund annual report on the country said yesterday.

“Italy could then be forced into a notable fiscal contraction, pushing a weakening economy into a recession. The burden would fall disproportionately on the vulnerable,” the IMF added.

The Italian economy, the eurozone's third largest, fell into a technical recession at the end of 2018.

The fund expects the Italian economy to grow by no more than 0.6 percent this year, well below the government's own estimate of 1.0 percent.

The European Commission is tipped to lower its Italian growth forecast on Thursday, and slower growth could spell trouble for Italy, where around 20 percent of national output is swallowed up each year by payments on the public debt, the second biggest in the eurozone.

Photo: Depositphotos

The IMF report praised the coalition government's “objective to improve economic and social outcomes (as) welcome.”

But it added that the only sustainable way of achieving such goals was through “faster potential growth” that would require structural reforms, “a credible fiscal consolidation” and stronger bank balance sheets.

The coalition government of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League party was forced to water down its ambitious and costly budget in December to avoid being punished by the EU Commission and financial markets.

The IMF report emphasised Wednesday that Italy “needs to tackle long-standing structural impediments to productivity growth. 

“This includes decentralising the wage bargaining regime, liberalising service markets, and improving the business climate.”

Deputy Prime Minister and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio quickly rejected the IMF report, charging that the Fund “has starved people for decades.”

The IMF, Di Maio claimed, “has no credibility to criticise a measure like the citizenship income programme,” the party's plan to introduce a welfare payment of 780 euros a month for Itay's least well-off.

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MONEY

Italy expands €200 payment scheme and introduces public transport bonus

Italy's government will extend its proposed one-time €200 benefit to more people and introduce a €60 public transport payment, Italian media reported on Thursday.

Italy expands €200 payment scheme and introduces public transport bonus

Seasonal workers, domestic and cleaning staff, the self-employed, the unemployed and those on Italy’s ‘citizens’ income’ will be added to the categories of people in Italy eligible for a one-off €200 payment, ministers reportedly announced on Thursday evening.

The one-time bonus, announced earlier this week as part of a package of financial measures designed to offset the rising cost of living, was initially set to be for pensioners and workers on an income of less than €35,000 only.

However the government has now agreed to extend the payment to the additional groups following pressure from Italy’s labour, families, and regional affairs ministers and representatives of the Five Star Movement, according to news agency Ansa.

Pensioners and employees will reportedly receive the €200 benefit between June and July via a direct payment into their pension slip or pay packet.

For other groups, a special fund will be created at the Labour Ministry and the procedures for claiming and distributing payments detailed in an incoming decree, according to the Corriere della Sera news daily.

One new measure introduced at the cabinet meeting on Thursday is the introduction of a one-time €60 public transport bonus for students and workers earning below €35,000. The bonus is reportedly designed to encourage greater use of public transport and will take the form of an e-voucher that can be used when purchasing a bus, train or metro season pass.

Other provisions reportedly proposed in the energy and investment decree (decreto energia e investimenti), which is still being adjusted and amended, include extending energy bill discounts, cutting petrol excise duty and rolling on the deadline to claim Italy’s popular ‘superbonus 110’.

The €14 billion aid package, intended to lessen the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, will “fight the higher cost of living” and is “a temporary situation”, Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said.

The Local will report further details of the payment scheme once they become available following final approval of the decree.

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