Prime Minister Draghi’s end-of-year press conference
Wednesday, 22 December 2021
[The following video is available in Italian only]
INTRODUCTION BY PRIME MINISTER MARIO DRAGHI
Good morning everyone,
I would first of all like to thank all journalists, for everything that you do for democracy and for freedom.
I also wish to particularly thank members of the parliamentary press for their work this year. Press conferences have provided a very important opportunity to reply to your comments, criticisms and uncertainties.
Above all, press conferences have been an opportunity to try and explain the Government’s actions to you and to all citizens. I hope you have found them as useful as I have.
My introduction today will be brief, so as to leave as much time as possible for your questions.
The arrival of Omicron, which scientists are telling us is much more contagious than the previous variants, has opened a new phase of the pandemic. We will be holding a steering committee meeting tomorrow to decide on what to do based on the epidemiological situation. The first message I would like to give as part of this introduction is: vaccines remain our best defence against the virus.
It is important to note that three quarters of deaths are of unvaccinated people. Since the beginning of the vaccination campaign, our country has administered over 106 million doses. On 13 February, Italy ranked last among major European countries for the administration of first doses. Today, approximately 80% of our population have received at least one dose, which is higher than in Great Britain, France and Germany. We have administered 15.6 million third doses. I invite all citizens to continue getting vaccinated and to get their third dose. This is the priority at the moment.
Scientific evidence is telling us that the vaccines work very well, also against the new variants. The vaccination campaign has played a fundamental role in relaunching the economy.
As I have said, growth will be around 6% at year-end, following the drop of almost 9% recorded last year. Employment has also begun to grow again: in the third quarter of this year, there were 500 thousand more people in work, and 308 thousand less unemployed people compared with the same period in 2020. Although many of these employment contracts are temporary rather than permanent, there has nevertheless been an increase.
The recovery has also allowed us to improve public finances. We are expecting the public debt to GDP ratio to begin dropping already from this year. The Government stands ready to support the economy in the event of a slowdown. This is the second message I want to give you as part of this introduction: the main challenge remains that of increasing the long-term growth rate and resolving our economy’s structural weaknesses, starting with geographical, gender and generational inequalities.
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan is key to this strategy. Today, I can tell you that we have achieved all 51 of our objectives. The signing of the so-called ‘operational arrangement’ is now being discussed at the European Commission, which is the next step after completion of these 51 objectives. A 1-2 month period of dialogue with the European Commission will then follow, before agreeing on the tranche of the loans provided for. So, we have achieved all of the 51 objectives we had agreed upon with the European Commission, leading me to my third message: Italy, its regional authorities, municipalities and central government, are moving with determination and strength. This is a long and complex process but, at the same time, we should be satisfied with what has been done this year and, above all, there is no reason to fear that things cannot also be done well in the future.
One of the many initiatives we have undertaken is the Italian space strategy. I would like to say a few words on this initiative, which requires a total of EUR 4.5 billion. Italy will launch the largest European constellation of satellites for observation of the Earth; these will be low-orbit satellites, which are important for environmental and climate protection as well as for developing innovative services for companies. A competition will be run at the start of 2022 allowing young people in Italy to put forward proposals to name this constellation, with the final choice being made by our astronauts, led by Samantha Cristoforetti who will be returning to space again next year.
Please feel free to begin asking me your questions.