Italy's PM eyes digital investment as post-covid policy debate opens - Metro US

Italy’s PM eyes digital investment as post-covid policy debate opens

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wearing a protective face mask, leaves the Senate as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Rome

ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte outlined recovery plans including digital and infrastructure investments on Friday ahead of a policy congress to lay the basis for a relaunch of the coronavirus-battered economy.

Conte’s plans for the event have been clouded with uncertainty and caused unease with coalition partners in the centre-left Democratic Party who are worried it will amount to little more than empty window dressing.

The right-wing opposition has said it will boycott the congress but Conte said the event, which will include business leaders and representatives of international bodies, would lay the basis for a policy programme to be unveiled in September.

He said it was needed for Italy to draw up policies to justify recourse to the European Union’s proposed Recovery Fund.

“The European grant is not a fund that the government can spend just like that, it’s a major responsibility to be shared with all sides,” he was quoted as saying by La Repubblica, one of five dailies he met for a briefing.

Such policy roundtables have a long and mixed history in Italy and he declined to provide details before the plans were discussed with partners. He said projects included a single fibre optic network, green energy projects and plans to strengthen rail and port infrastructure.

Conte also said the government will decide by July whether to seek a loan from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) bailout fund which is opposed by coalition partners in the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement.

Conte, a lawyer originally drafted as a compromise head of the previous coalition government formed by 5-Star and the right wing League, also dismissed speculation that his favourable opinion poll ratings might prompt him to start a political movement of his own.

Given the current situation, it would be “insane” to dedicate even one thought to the idea, he said.

(Reporting by Francesca Piscioneri; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Gavin Jones/Mark Heinrich)

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