PM Draghi’s speech during his visit to Emilia-Romagna
Tuesday, 1 June 2021
[The following video is available in Italian only]
I would like to begin by sharing my first impressions after spending just a few minutes with you. This is the first time I have left Rome since the pandemic began to ease somewhat, and I can really sense a general feeling of relief, enthusiasm and a desire not only to restart, but also to unleash your immense drive to begin producing and doing business again, as well as to share your vision of the world. This is very comforting indeed and, moreover, it is happening in an area that was already excelling prior to the pandemic.
Today, all of that strength and energy that existed before shall form the basis to start again. You actually never really stopped, but now we can really begin to see your vision of the world again with regard to manufacturing activities and exports; the numbers are very impressive. You have also provided the Italian Government with an extremely clear to-do list and, in this regard, its only task is to create an environment with better infrastructure, sound education and training, and where people can feel part of society to produce, invest and look towards the future; the Government needs to do this not only for you, but also for all of Italy’s other production districts. We must create these conditions and help companies such as yours.
I would of course like to thank you for your kind words of appreciation for me and the Government and, above all, for this trip - first to Bologna’s technopolis and now here, to the ceramics district in Sassuolo. This part of Italy is alive and kicking, it is strong and, as I said, it has a great desire to get going again. The pandemic has been very difficult for everyone: workers, companies, families and children. As I have said many times, it has been a health and an economic disaster but also a cultural, educational and social one too. Inequalities have increased during this period, with many young people and especially women losing their jobs.
The effects of this crisis have therefore been distributed unevenly. However, we are now coming out the other side thanks to the sacrifices made by us all, by all citizens who, for a year and a half, have had to behave in a certain way, understanding the need for restrictions on their personal freedom; fundamentally, we have all had to behave in a depressed way. Why? In order to get through it, for the love of our dear ones and to protect ourselves. We are now entering a new phase thanks to the strong acceleration of the vaccination campaign, in relation to which Emilia has proven to be one of the most efficient regions in terms of implementation, as President Bonaccini reminded us earlier. We are now in a phase of recovery and confidence on which to build a more just and modern country, allowing all of that pent-up energy, as I mentioned, to be unleashed that has been building up over recent months; I would even go so far as to say over years.
At this point in time, we are being given the opportunity to avoid a return to the complex institutional architecture that prevailed prior to the pandemic. Before the health crisis, our growth rate was very limited and everyone’s fear, both then and now, is that the post-pandemic recovery will not be long-lasting and that we will once again find ourselves on the very modest growth trajectory of recent years. However, let us now allow ourselves to enjoy things as they stand today.
As the Governor of Banca d’Italia said yesterday, Italy’s production activities are growing in strength, business confidence is at its highest level in over three years. We heard before that, here, production will have exceeded pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year, if I understood correctly. Entrepreneurs are planning investments, which is also a sign that optimism is returning. Investing means pointing to the future; a positive view of the future is a must for investments to be made.
For now, families are being somewhat more cautious, although there are clear signs of improvement also in this regard. All international bodies are raising their estimates regarding Italian economic performance and employment rates are also growing. This latter point is very important indeed because we are only at the beginning, and yet we are already seeing an increase in employment.
The Government can only be thanked for this if and when it manages to ensure that the general conditions are in place to allow for investment, production and job security. The real credit goes to Italy’s many industrial districts, such as yours, which have supported our economy during these difficult months and are now playing a key role in the country’s recovery. As already mentioned, 90% of Italy’s ceramics are produced here and in Emilia-Romagna’s other districts. During the first quarter of this year, this industry grew by 9%, far exceeding the rate recorded by Italian manufacturing activities in general and reflecting the excellence of this region. The secret lies in the fact that companies here work closely together when it comes to internationalisation and innovation, which is a very specific characteristic of this area. In 2018, your sector invested almost 10% of its turnover, while Italian companies in general spent, on average, only around 3% on investments. You are global leaders: 85% of Italian ceramics are exported, generating over EUR 4.5 billion and covering approximately 1/3 of international trade for the product. This means that 30% of the relative world trade comes from here, from this industrial district, from this area. This region is therefore perhaps the best able to react to the crisis.
I am not only referring to the pandemic now but, more generally, to the crisis that we have been experiencing for the last twenty years. Between 2010 and 2019, Emilia-Romagna’s GDP grew by almost 7% compared with an increase of just 0.8% at national level. This is thanks to you and to your vocation for manufacturing but, as you have reminded me, and we all need to bear this in mind, this vocation for manufacturing must be supported by adequate physical and non-physical infrastructure.
As part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) and the relative complementary fund available, we have earmarked almost EUR 30 billion to boost digitalisation and business competitiveness, almost EUR 18 billion of which will go towards the ‘Transition 4.0’ programme. Over EUR 2 billion refer to high-tech investments and international industrial supply chain policies. There is an equally important focus on training and research and we will be investing EUR 12 billion to support companies’ investments in research and development, with the aim of supporting research, innovation and the dissemination of technology.
We are therefore now able to multiply and strengthen extraordinary experiences such as Bologna’s technopolis. We are now able to create opportunities for young researchers, as you have already seen both at the Bologna technopolis and in the projects combining this hub with other university scientific research centres. This will allow us to attract the best minds, which is again something that can already be seen at the technopolis, as well as to strengthen relationships between businesses and the world of research.
The NRRP also includes measures for higher technical institutes that have many synergies with Emilia-Romagna’s educational model and with the ceramics industry. The dual system and apprenticeship schemes are being strengthened in order to bring training systems more in line with labour market requirements. The NRRP and the relative complementary fund also provide for a number of measures in the construction industry, representing another opportunity for the ceramics industry to recover over the next five years. EUR 35 billion will go towards renovating and upgrading both public and private buildings, especially schools and homes.
Furthermore, I would like to draw your attention to a recent step that has been taken, bearing in mind the government’s objective to ensure that the general conditions are in place for production, employment and prosperity to grow. I am referring to the decree law approved last week by the Council of Ministers, which introduces a number of simplification measures and which, I hope, represents a fundamental step change for Italy. This decree law is wide-ranging and very complex, reducing uncertainties and bureaucracy time frames and making life easier for entrepreneurs and citizens, while ensuring that workplace protection systems and, above all, levels of legality remain intact. In particular, the right to workplace health and safety, which is of key importance during the recovery phase, shall be safeguarded and further strengthened.
It was also encouraging to see how this decree law came into being, with support and contributions coming from all political parties, social partners and trade unions, as well as Italy’s regional and local authorities. I would like to thank all those who helped to achieve this result.
The investments and reforms in our plan require commitment not only from the Italian Government, but also from all levels of local government as well all the country’s production resources. However, today, let us enjoy the present: we are here in a successful production workplace and it is from here that we wish to restart, moving together towards a phase of recovery that we must ensure is long-lasting and sustainable. To achieve this, Italy needs to stand united in its desire to return to growth and to once again have faith in the future.