Overall, the Italian government has responded positively to the Covid-19 pandemic, in terms of social and healthcare commitments, as demonstrated by the latest data on our country’s death toll. There has been, so far, a constant decrease of new cases despite the country experiencing a second wave of infection. This is to be expected and is likely to involve most countries. The timeframe plays a big role, as summertime favours the spread of the virus, as controls have been inevitably reduced across the world as well as increased testing for the virus.
However, what stands out is that most of the new infections come from external sources, which is a good sign for the country, as it shows that our progress in minimising risk is sustainable. The recurring issue of migration is also something of relevance. New cases have been found among migrants, who are functioning, in some cases, as a vehicle to carry the virus into the country. Therefore, what the country should aim at is a much more robust control of migration, as newcomers are usually lacking the same levels of sanitary precautions and controls in their places of origin as we do in Italy.
According to il Giornale, the overall number of arrivals between January and July has almost tripled this year compared to 2019. Another reason that we are experiencing higher number of cases due to international travel is that many young people have been going abroad on holiday and are now returning. Many popular destinations, such as Greece, Croatia and Spain, have struggled to control the spread in recent months and there is a high chance of bringing the virus back to Italy.
In terms of economic management of the crisis, there are some issues to be faced as well as initiatives that have not yet been implemented. The downturns due to the pandemic are often seen as “supply-side”. In fact, it primarily involved producers, which has led to knock-on effects on demand. The main government mistake has been its over focus on promoting measures that affect demand, mostly measures that are some form of welfare provision. The initiatives mostly favour the interests of consumers, whose disposable income helps to drive the country’s economy forward.
However, thus far key elements of our nation’s economic prosperity have been ignored, such as safeguarding investment, promoting the productivity of the country, and protecting the value of firms. In my opinion, until the government gets its economic priorities straight, increasing spending is not going to help the long-term prospects of the country. As such, the latest €100 billion spending plan can be regarded as a waste of money, given the way the government made use of it.
Secondly, another issue that can be considered to highlight the flawed management of the economic crisis is the general attitude that is pervading government. We are currently seeing a government that refuses to decide. For example, we are one of the few countries in danger of becoming a dictatorship rather than a democracy, given that Covid might be seen as an excuse to concentrate power in the hands of government.
The lack of long-term planning and consistent decision-making is a major concern. Given the trajectory of the government, I was surprised to see the PM decide to reduce the extension of the state of emergency after concerted opposition pressure. Why does the government keep acting as if it expects the situation to be solved in the blink of an eye without promoting sensible forward-thinking policy?