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Clear incentives for credit and investments from Bankitalia and Confindustria

Restore a central role to the real economy and stake on companies and industry in order to restart the Italian growth machine. On two consecutive days last week clear signals were given out by the general assembly of Confindustria and the annual report of the governor of the Bank of Italy. Ignazio Visco, the governor, claimed “more credit for companies” in a report focusing more on investments and leverage for development and work than the need, although confirmed, for balancing public accounts (a neo-Keynesian strategy, according to some observers, far from the austerity-type ideological obsession which has caused so much damage to economic and social situations in the whole of Europe). As well as greater commitment by entrepreneurs towards investing, recapitalising their companies, putting their capital not in home finances but towards the support of production. More capital, in other words, and more loans, greater commitment by shareholders and more credit. A virtuous circle of development and an actual turnaround, therefore, with respect to the financialisation of the economy which had regrettably held court throughout the 1990s and the early part of this century, up to the time of the financial crisis. Bankitalia has sent out a call for co-responsibility of entrepreneurs, to end the chapter of the “poor monastery with rich monks”, a strong and authoritative call for a corporate culture focused on profit but with a long-term view and in a context of responsibility and sustainability, innovation and focus on productivity and competitiveness.

Visco warns that companies must do more in order to bring about radical renewal of the way of producing with respect to the digital revolution, able to generate new forms of business and employment in new areas of activity. Similar concepts were used by the chairman of Confindustria, Giorgio Squinzi, at the assembly of the organisation (engaged moreover in a radical reform, developed by the committee chaired by Carlo Pesenti, to improve its ability to represent business people and their needs and efficiency of services for the same member companies. In this case too a choice of innovation of corporate culture). “We still do too little”, said Squinzi, “for the recovery of productivity, for investments in research and digital technology and new activities with high added value, rich and unexplored areas of growth”. Therefore a favourable environment is needed for investments by Italian and international companies, creating the right climate and demolishing bureaucratic restraints, with reforms of the public administration (including proper laws against corruption and illegality), of taxation and civil justice (the exasperating judicial periods of time for recovering unpaid debts is one of the causes of the slowdown in investments). Legality, efficiency and development. It is definitely no coincidence that both Visco and Squinzi had very clear things to say about the fight against corruption and distortions within the administration and awarding of contracts.

The recovery underway, after years of crisis and still current risks of stagnation, is very fragile. It needs cooperation from all players. Bankitalia and Confindustria have made a move towards credit and renewal. Interesting signals are also coming from the Renzi government, in order to give strength to small and medium-sized firms, exports and research. At the assembly of Confindustria the minister for economic development, Federica Guidi, (who moreover came from this background) relaunched the themes of profit (as an essential condition for the life of companies, investments, the creation of wealth and work) and the pivotal nature of a word apparently fallen into misuse – “factory”. An Italy of factories, innovative and competitive, an Italy of quality manufacturing, suitable for gaining larger spaces on international markets and guaranteeing, in the medium term, qualified employment for the new generations.

Europe should also take action as part of this growth strategy. With the BCE leadership Mario Draghi has developed a strategy aiming at increasing credit for companies and encouraging development in European countries through the dual leverage of low interest rates and supply of liquidity. Good choices but more is needed: a strategy of an actual industrial compact which gives substance to investments and specific work according to the order from the EU to bring in a short time to 20% the proportion of manufacturing within the GDP (it currently standards at 15%, 23% in Germany and Italy which has dropped to 16% after the recession, having lost a fourth of its manufacturing capacity).

The term of Italian presidency of the EU can play a major role in this direction: strongly urging policies of innovation, investment, development with the support of France, Spain and Portugal and also close attention from Germany, aware that nothing good for the Germans can come of low growth in Europe. A political opportunity to be grasped in full.