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How Italy plans to spend €209 billion of EU money

Italy's prime minister on Wednesday set out plans for spending the country's 28 percent share of the €750 billion EU recovery fund aimed at helping countries re-emerge from the coronavirus crisis.

How Italy plans to spend €209 billion of EU money
A wide angle view shows the Italian Air Force acrobatic unit Frecce Tricolori (Tricolored Arrows) performing over the new San Giorgio bridge on its inauguration day on August 3, 2020 in Genoa. AFP

READ ALSO: How the EU agreed its €750 billion rescue plan to save shattered economies

Italy, which pushed hard for more EU support at the height of the crisis, is set to receive the largest share: 209 billion euros, or 28 percent of the entire rescue fund.

The deal was struck back in July after hard-hit Italy and Spain fought for grants, rather than loans – against stiff opposition from the Netherlands and some other northern EU states.
 
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the funding as “an opportunity to build a better Italy” and said he didn't want to “waste a single euro”.
 
As well as using the English phrase “Recovery Fund”, in Italian it is also referred to as the Piano nazionale di resilienza e rilancio, or National Resilience and Relaunch Plan (PNRR).
 
Photo: AFP
 
The money will not start to arrive until the first quarter of 2021, and each country has to detail how it will be spent before the allocated amounts are released.
 
The Italian government on Wednesday sent its Recovery Plan guidelines to parliament for approval.
 
Once approved, Italy will then need to send its draft proposal to Brussels by October 15th, while the deadline to present the final plan is January 2021.
 
 
 
The 38-page document contains plans to lower taxes for the middle class, and to double Italy's economic growth rate.  While we can't detail all of the proposals, here's an overview of what it contains.
 
Six priorities
 
It's hoped the funding could be used to tackle some of the long-standing issues widely seen as holding back Italy, and its economy. Overall the government plan is divided into six areas:
  • Digitalization, innovation and growth
  • Green policies aimed at decarbonisation
  • Transport infrastructure
  • Education, training, research and culture
  • Social cohesion and gender equality
  • Health

Some of the main targets set out in the document include:

  • Doubling the country's economic growth rate, bringing it up from a pre-crisis average of +0.8% over the last decade to 1.6% in line with the European average.
  • Increasing in the employment rate by 10 percentage points, from the current 63%  to 73.2%, closer to the avergae in other EU member states.
  • Increasing research and development expenditure to 2.1% compared to the current 1.3%.

Photo: AFP

Where is the money going?

Nearly 35 billion is destined for hospitals, while schools will receive funding for 368,000 new classrooms and updated equipment, as well as computer voucher to be made available to all families with school-age children. Funds have also been allocated for scholarships.

it is expected that the roll-out of 5G will be financed by the recovery fund in at least 100 cities.

Transport

Just over one billion euros is allocated to the controversial Turin-Lyon (Tav) high-speed railway line, and 4.5 billion for Sicily's planned Palermo-Messina-Catania railway. The plan sets aside 2.6 billion for a direct high-speed link between Naples and Bari in the south.
 
Discounted or free tickets will be made available for public transport within cities.
 
READ ALSO: 
The motorway network must also be adapted to the increased use of electric vehicles with the installation of charging points.
 
More jobs in public administration will be created, and the plan also includes incentives for businesses to allow flexible working and working from home.

Tax reform

The government sas it wants to completely overhaul Italy's tax system, creating “a tax system favorable to growth” by cutting taxes for the middle classes, particularly for families.

The document details plans for “a comprehensive reform of direct and indirect taxation, aimed at designing a simple and transparent fair tax for citizens, which in particular reduces the tax burden on the middle classes and families with children and accelerates the transition of the economic system towards greater environmental sustainability “

 

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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