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What Are Italy’s Government’s Priorities for 2017?

What issues will Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni government prioritise in 2017? Here’s a list so we can all keep track of what’s going on. Think of it as Italy’s to do list.

The issues are not dissimilar to those the former Matteo Renzi led government prioritised. This is no real surprise seeing as the Gentiloni government is more or less the same in all the but name of its leader as Mr Renzi’s.

On to the issues that Italy’s government will be managing in 2017.

The Big Issues

At the top of the Gentiloni government’s list is most probably saving Italy’s supposedly solid banks. Around €20 billion has been earmarked for this but the lion’s share will go towards keeping troubled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena afloat. The bank salvage operation is in progress at time of writing – January 2017.

Another high priority item is bound to be employment. Italy’s youth are finding the job market particularly tough even if the over 50s aren’t. The problem is that Italy’s economy is still not growing so not enough new jobs are being created. Italy’s old bugbear precious employment is still causing problems. The extension of a curious voucher payment system to more categories of workers has not helped matters. Italy also needs to encourage more women to work but that won’t be easy in conservative Italy. A side effect of Italy’s employment woes is an increase poverty levels in Italy.

Tied to the unemployment issue, is that of the creation of an industrial plan for Italy. If something sound emerges, the fragile recovery the nation’s economy is experiencing may gain pace. Not all of Italy’s companies have suffered at the hands of the economic crisis as the performance of brake maker Brembo illustrates.

Next on the list is immigration. The numbers of immigrants arriving over the Mediterranean by boat is not diminishing. Italy has become a bottle neck seeing as other nation’s in Europe are reluctant to absorb what appears to be an endless flow of people looking to Europe for better living and working conditions. Whether much will be done though, remains to be seen. Hostels hosting immigrants while their cases are examined appear to be lucrative business for those who run them.

Not wholly unconnected to immigration is also the issue of ISIS sponsored terrorism.  So far, and perhaps a little surprisingly, Italy has not suffered at the hands of terrorists. Whatever is being done in terms of keeping an eye on potential troublemakers and nipping their attack plans in the bud appears to be working. Even so, Italy’s government will be keeping a close eye on terrorist activity in 2017. Barriers have now been put up in the central areas of major Italian cities to prevent truck attacks like the ones in Nice and Berlin.

The main priorities are therefore keeping Italy’s banking system from collapsing, employment and business growth, keeping terrorism in check and finding more effective ways of managing immigration.

A major issue that doesn’t appear to be a priority is that of Italy’s growing national debt. Italy claims its national debt level is sustainable but it also claimed its banks were solid so this issue may flare up in 2017.

Lesser Issues

Another issue that is on Prime Minister Gentiloni’s to do list is sorting out a workable election law.

At present, Italy does not have one owing to the current law having been drafted on the belief that Italy’s constitutional reforms would have been approved in last December’s referendum. The reforms were not approved and so Italy now needs a new electoral law.

The shape and form of such a law is hazy to say the least. This Italy watcher expects the new law will probably be drafted in some Machiavellian way to keep the Five Star Movement from ever winning power. Progress on the electoral law front is likely to be slow unless calls for elections reach a crescendo.

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What might cause calls for a general election to increase volume is an age old Italian issue – corruption. Trying to deal with this is apparently one of the Gentiloni government’s priorities even if the political will to do something concrete is as absent as ever. Corruption scandals are as common as mushrooms in Italy. One or two seem to blow up every month. The Consip situation revolving around the award of lucrative facilities management contracts in Italy’s public sector may reach boiling point soon.

Indirectly related to Italy’s corruption issue is the reform of criminal trials procedure. Speeding up Italy’s slowing turning wheels of justice is, like corruption, affected by a lack of political will. Whether the reform will be completed in 2017 remains to be seen.

Other Issues

Other items that require attention in Italy are the nation’s education system. The so-called Good School reform hasn’t turned out to be a good as promised so amendments are likely.

Italy’s health system is in the spotlight mainly with an eye to saving money. A very sticky health system matter is that of maintaining levels of service and at the same time cutting costs.

Savings may be reduced by the renewal of Italy’s physicians contracts of employment in 2017. The negotiations will lead to a battle royal, one suspects.

There has already been some progress on the cost reduction front, or may be in the longer term. Recently, Italy’s health minister announced that a greater range of vaccinations would be available at no cost in Italy. While this measure may appear costly, by ensuring people in Italy stay healthy, treatment costs should come down thus reducing the cost of Italy’s health system.

Another preventative measure is that of keeping the damage caused by landslides and flooding to a minimum. Works that could have prevented certain natural disasters from causing such mayhem haven’t been carried out but may be if progress is made in this area in 2017.

As well as saving money, Italy’s government may raise some cash by tacking the issue of the grant of beach concessions. Currently, many such concession have been virtually given away. In the future, this may change and if it does, government in Italy will receive more income.

The reform and reorganisation of Italy’s public sector is ongoing and will continue in 2017. Italy’s provincial level government system may be finally abolished though this is far from certain.

Finally, there’s Italy’s public transport system and the issue of the safety of the nation’s rail network.

Another matter that does not appear to be on the list, is that of rebuilding the areas destroyed by Italy’s 2016 bout of earthquakes. Something that is one the list but really shouldn’t be, is saving keeping Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV business out of the clutches of French media giant Vivendi. Nobody really understands why this is a priority for Italy’s government.

Italy’s government has quite a long to do list for 2017. Many of the items requiring attention have been carried over from 2016 and long before that too. Other issues will no doubt emerge as 2017 progresses.

Is there anything that should be on the list but isn’t. I’d add simplifying Italy’s tax system. I believe it is under examination but haven’t seen anything on the subject. Maybe you have.

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