PM Draghi’s press conference with Health Minister Roberto Speranza
16 April 2021
President of the Council of Ministers Mario Draghi held a press conference at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers today, together with the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza.
Summary of PM Draghi’s press conference
In today’s press conference, President of the Council of Ministers Mario Draghi described the three pillars of Italy’s relaunch strategy: a clear road map of reopenings; economic and business support measures; and, investments to boost growth.
This strategy is based on an improved health situation in which the infection curve is flattening and the vaccination campaign is speeding up. “We can look to the future with cautious optimism and with confidence”, explained PM Draghi.
Starting from 26 April, ‘yellow’ zones will be brought back in, although there will be a change compared with the past: priority will be given to outdoor business activities, starting from restaurants with tables outside for lunch and dinner. This decision takes into account a “calculated risk”, based on scientists’ advice that the risk of contagion outdoors is low. As of 1 June, indoor restaurants will also be able to open, at lunchtime only.
The return of ‘yellow’ zones means that museums will automatically reopen, while theatres, cinemas and entertainment events in these areas will be able to reopen with limits on the number of people allowed to enter, as established by the Scientific-Technical Committee.
Starting from 15 May, outdoor swimming pools will be able to reopen, and then gyms on 1 June. This will be followed by the reopening of trade fairs and conferences, spa facilities and water parks.
All schools, at all levels, will open in ‘yellow’ and ‘orange’ zones, with students attending in person. In ‘red’ zones, nurseries and primary schools will be able to reopen with students attending in person, while lessons in secondary schools will be partly attended in person and partly taught remotely.
These measures will be contained in an upcoming decree, to be approved by the Council of Ministers, which will also provide details on the new rules regarding travel within Italy. As President of the Council of Ministers Draghi explained, it will once again be possible to freely move between ‘yellow-zone’ regions. To visit a region in a different coloured zone, one of the following conditions must be met: you must be vaccinated, you must have recently tested negative for Covid-19 or you must have already recovered from Covid-19.
With the new EUR 40 billion budget slippage and the Economy and Finance Document approved by the Council of Ministers, the Italian Government is betting on growth: this year, Italy’s budget deficit will be just under 12% of GDP and this will reduce gradually until it returns below 3%, which will not happen before 2025. If we reach the expected levels of growth, explained PM Draghi, “we do not believe that corrective action will be necessary in the years to come. This process will mean a way out of debt through growth”.
There are two types of logic behind the support measures: providing support to people and families who have suffered a drop in income through no fault of their own; and, help for companies to avoid them having to close due to a lack of liquidity. PM Draghi underlined that, over recent months, urgent action had already been taken to help families and businesses, stating that the Agenzia delle Entrate [Italian Revenue Agency] had already made EUR 3 billion in payments under the ‘Support’ decree between 30 March and today, with more payments to be made in April.
The next support measures will increase aid for companies and sole traders affected by the crisis. There will be measures to help cover fixed costs, such as rent and bills, as well as initiatives to provide credit and liquidity support, postpone tax payments and introduce tax breaks. Additional resources will also be made available for young people and local authorities.
Investments for future growth
Once the health emergency is over, Italy must finally return to growth. The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) will be the key to recovery: Italy has EUR 191.5 billion at its disposal, of which EUR 69 billion do not have to be repaid and EUR 122 billion are in the form of loans; there is also a complementary fund to the NRRP worth EUR 30 billion. The complementary fund will be used to finance measures that last longer than the six-year duration of the EU Recovery Fund, but that must move forward at the same pace.
This Plan is an historic opportunity to relaunch the economy and requires an ambitious programme of reforms to ensure that resources are effectively deployed on the ground and that work can begin on the various projects unhindered. PM Draghi explained that the Government was already working on this: commissioners have been appointed for 57 public works projects, that had already been identified but were waiting to be implemented. A clear and realistic time schedule has been defined for each project, and the Minister of Sustainable Infrastructure and Mobility will be carrying out quarterly monitoring on completion of the various stages, so as to promptly remove any obstacles that may arise.
PM Draghi also talked about Italy’s high level of public debt, stressing the importance of “good debt”, i.e., debt that is able to generate growth. In the past, markets would look at the interest rates on public debt, which are very low today; now, markets are looking at growth, which must be sustainable.
PM Draghi also explained that, after the crisis, it is not very likely that the EU will go back to applying the same budget rules as before. All EU countries must return to sustained growth, which is why public resources must continue to be directed towards the economy, mainly focusing on investments once the health emergency is over.