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World Italy's Draghi presenting 'epochal' virus recovery plan

14:35  26 april  2021
14:35  26 april  2021 Source:   msn.com

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ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Draghi is presenting a 222.1 billion euro ($268.6 billion) coronavirus recovery plan to Parliament on Monday, aiming to not only bounce back from the pandemic but enact “epochal” reforms to address structural problems that long predated COVID-19.

Commuters walk on the platform after getting off a regional train at the Cadorna railway station in Milan, Italy, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) © Provided by Associated Press Commuters walk on the platform after getting off a regional train at the Cadorna railway station in Milan, Italy, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) Italian Premier Mario Draghi gestures as he addresses the media during a news conference, in Rome, Friday, April 16, 2021. Draghi announced Friday that Italy will take a “reasoned risk” in reopening restaurants with outdoor seating and school at all grade levels in some regions from April 26. The openings will apply to regions that have the lowest tiers of restrictions and require both mask-wearing and social distancing be “scrupulously observed.” (Remo Casilli/Pool via AP) © Provided by Associated Press Italian Premier Mario Draghi gestures as he addresses the media during a news conference, in Rome, Friday, April 16, 2021. Draghi announced Friday that Italy will take a “reasoned risk” in reopening restaurants with outdoor seating and school at all grade levels in some regions from April 26. The openings will apply to regions that have the lowest tiers of restrictions and require both mask-wearing and social distancing be “scrupulously observed.” (Remo Casilli/Pool via AP)

Italy has the biggest share of the EU’s 750 billion euro ($907 billion) recovery pot, with 191.5 billion euros ($231.6 billion) of its six-year plan financed by EU funds. Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief, was put in the premier’s office specifically to make sure the money isn’t wasted since Italy has long had one of the worst records in the EU of making use of available funds.

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Chairs and tables are being prepared outside a restaurant ahead of Monday's reopening following the ease of COVID-19 restrictions, in Rome, Friday, April 23, 2021. Even Italy’s tentative reopening is satisfying no one. Outdoor dining is too little, too late for restaurant owners whose survival is threatened by a year of rotating closures. Yet the nation’s weary virologists worry that Monday, April 26, 2021 will see people crowding bars and restaurants and bring yet another spike to the virus that has not really properly receded yet. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP) © Provided by Associated Press Chairs and tables are being prepared outside a restaurant ahead of Monday's reopening following the ease of COVID-19 restrictions, in Rome, Friday, April 23, 2021. Even Italy’s tentative reopening is satisfying no one. Outdoor dining is too little, too late for restaurant owners whose survival is threatened by a year of rotating closures. Yet the nation’s weary virologists worry that Monday, April 26, 2021 will see people crowding bars and restaurants and bring yet another spike to the virus that has not really properly receded yet. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP)

The plan is heavy on investments to modernize and digitize Italy’s economy and bureaucracy and encourage environmentally sustainable development. Both are directed particularly at the all-important tourism industry — think Venice, the Colosseum and Amalfi coast resorts — which accounts for 13% of Italy’s gross domestic product and was devastated by pandemic-related closures.

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Employment options for women and young people are prioritized, given youth unemployment tops 30% and Italy has long ranked at the bottom of the EU in terms of the percentage of women in the workforce. Women accounted for more than half the 456,000 jobs lost in Italy last year.

Here’s a look at Italy’s plans, which were announced on the same day that most of the country began emerging from its latest coronavirus lockdown, with museums reopening and restaurants and bars open for outdoor service.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION and EMPLOYMENT

About 27% of the plan is directed at digital transformation of the Italian economy and public administration, broadening access to high-speed internet service, especially in schools, and providing incentives to the private sector to digitize.

Around 22.4 billion euros ($27 billion) are aimed at “social inclusion” investments and programs to boost training and employment opportunities for women and help cities improve access and opportunities for disabled people. The aim of both, coupled with increased day care spots, is to remove obstacles that have traditionally kept Italian women at home caring for the young, old, sick and disabled.

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The plan envisages the Italian economy, which shrank 8.8% last year, will grow 3.6 percentage points beyond base forecasts in 2026 and that its employment rate will grow 3.2 percentage points.

A visitor admires frescos inside the Capitoline Museum at the Campidoglio, Rome's Capitol Hill, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) © Provided by Associated Press A visitor admires frescos inside the Capitoline Museum at the Campidoglio, Rome's Capitol Hill, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

The EU required that at least 37% of its funds be directed toward climate-related investments, part of the bloc’s aim for a cut of 55% of greenhouse gases by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

Elementary school children gather with their teacher to look at the statue of the She-Wolf milking the twin-founders of Rome, outside Rome's Capitol Hill, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) © Provided by Associated Press Elementary school children gather with their teacher to look at the statue of the She-Wolf milking the twin-founders of Rome, outside Rome's Capitol Hill, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Italy’s plan is directing 40% overall, or 68.6 billion euros ($82.9 billion), to green-related investments and initiatives: boosting recycling, overhauling public transport systems to favor low-emission vehicles, and reducing water waste through improvements to waterways.

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A private security guard opens the main door of the Capitoline Museum at the Campidoglio, Rome's Capitol Hill, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) © Provided by Associated Press A private security guard opens the main door of the Capitoline Museum at the Campidoglio, Rome's Capitol Hill, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

The plan calls for some 31.4 billion euros ($37.9 billion) in transportation infrastructure improvements and extending high-speed rail lines across the peninsula, especially in the underserved south.

EDUCATION AND RESEARCH

Among other things, the plan aims to create 152,000 more day care spots for babies and 76,000 for preschoolers, addressing a structural shortage that has long dissuaded parents from having children and women from working.

Other destinations for the 31.9 billion euro ($38.5 billion) investment in education and research is to spiff up dilapidated school buildings and get them better wired, and revamp the higher-education curriculum to encourage more students to pursue higher degrees.

Italy has long been beset by brain drain, with its brightest students pursuing advanced degrees and jobs abroad, and not coming back.

Passengers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 sit in a crowded bus in Rome, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP): Virus Outbreak Italy Reopening © Provided by Associated Press Virus Outbreak Italy Reopening

HEALTH CARE

The structural weakness of Italy’s national health system was on full display during the pandemic, when hospitals in northern Lombardy were overwhelmed and general practitioners were largely left on their own to care for sick patients as Italy became the epicenter of Europe's outbreak.

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The 18.5 billion euro ($22.3 billion) investment in health care aims to reinforce in particular the general medicine and preventive care provided at the local level, with a strengthening of home care and telemedicine. Digital infrastructure improvements aim to improve data analysis.

REFORMS

Italy’s lethargic justice system and cumbersome bureaucracy have long been accused of discouraging foreign investment, since lawsuits and criminal trials can last for years and securing permissions to do just about anything can take a similarly long time.

Commuters wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 walk at the Cadorna railway station in Milan, Italy, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italy is gradually reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus lockdowns. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni): Virus Outbreak Italy Reopening © Provided by Associated Press Virus Outbreak Italy Reopening

The justice system reform aims to reduce the backlog of court files with temporary hires, while revising norms and procedures to encourage more recourse to mediation.

Other reforms are focused on modernizing Italy’s old and outdated public administration, aiming to increase turnover to get more young people hired, digitize systems, simplify procedures for permits and boost competition particularly in public services and utilities.

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