Italy to relax Covid restrictions as Draghi hopes ‘gamble’ pays off

Prime minister under pressure within coalition to lift lockdown measures but death toll remains high.

Vision Think Tank cited by The Guardian.

Draghi 1

“This is probably Draghi’s biggest bet so far,” said Francesco Grillo, a political economist and director of the thinktank Vision. “Quite a few virologists think infections might rise again and so there could be a risk that [reopening] backfires.”

Nicknamed “Super Mario” for his role in saving the European single currency, expectations were high when Draghi was appointed prime minister in mid-February, with many Italians counting on him to work miracles overnight. But a slow and chaotic vaccination programme, at least during the first weeks of his leadership, and insufficient financial support for businesses hit hard by the pandemic, has led his popularity in opinion polls to diminish.

“Draghi is Super Mario but he’s not Harry Potter,” said Grillo. “It’s an illusion to think he has a magic button to solve all the problems of a country which has been in decline for 30 years, and he has less than two years in which to do it.

” Draghi’s key mission is Italy’s economic recovery, a plan for which will be presented to parliament on Monday before being submitted to the European commission by 30 April. The plan envisages speeding up Italy’s digital and green transformation, as well as investments in education and workforce training, infrastructure, social inclusion and health. However, the EU money will not be raining down on Italy.

The cash will come in tranches, but only when the government reaches the performance targets negotiated with the commission. A significant portion of the funding comes through cheap loans that will need to be repaid over many years, adding to Italy’s already huge public debt.

“This money is not like the [post-second world war] Marshal fund,” said Grillo. “It will need to produce results.”

While Draghi’s plan is expected to win EU approval, its execution over the long term will be left in the hands of whoever comes to power in the next general election in 2023.

“Draghi is a very strong figure and much respected at the European level, but the size and greatness of this guy is highlighted by the absolute weakness of the Italian political parties,” added Grillo.

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