Italian government economic funds

The Italian government on Friday 6/2/09 made a major intervention into the Italian Economy. Italy as everywhere else is struggling through the global crisis and finally Berlusconi’s government have made positive moves forward to assist the economy in Italy.  17.8 billion euros allocated  to funding for a major public works program.

The package was approved by the cabinet after it received a go-ahead from the interministerial economic committee Cipe earlier in the day.

Funding for the program is a mix of public and private resources, with infrastructure projects in southern Italy, including the Messina bridge linking Sicily to Reggio Calabria on the mainland, receiving some 49% of the public cash. A project that has been on the pipeline for years approved in 2003, cancelled by Prodi in 2006 and now lets hope will go ahead. Concerns over the involvment of the Mafia running the contracts and profiting from the bridge has always been ann issue here.

The program had originally amounted to 16.6 billion euros, 8.51 billion euros in state funds and 8.09 billion euros from the private sector, but the government then added another 1.2 billion euros of public money to help fund school and prison construction projects.

Most of the additional funding, one billion euros, will be used to build and restructure schools, while the rest will go to help ease overcrowding in Italian prisons, The Messina bridge, which once built would be the longest suspension bridge in the world, received 1.3 billion euros in funding from the government as a contribution to its estimated cost of some 6.1 billion euros.

Just over 1.5 billion euros has been earmarked for urban transport, including projects linked to Milan 2015 World’s Fair, Rome’s third metro line and new metro systems in the southern cities of Palermo and Catania.

Cash was also allocated to complete a long-delayed motorway expansion between Salerno and Reggio Calabria.

Included in the public works funding is 800 million euros to complete a controversial system of moveable flood barriers being installed in the Venice lagoon called MOSE, an acronym for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (experimental electro mechanic module).

While center-right government parties have praised the public works program and said it will give a jolt to the nation’s economy, it has received a mixed reaction elsewhere with consumer group Codacons calling the one billion euros earmarked for school building projects as ”just a drop in the bucket”.

The Democratic Party (PD), the biggest opposition force, criticised the Messina bridge project, saying it was not a priority for the nation and should have taken a back seat in the current credit crunch.

The bridge has been a pet project of Premier Silvio Berlusconi both in his previous 2001-2006 administration and the current one.

The Italy of Values (IdV) party of former Clean Hands prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro accused the government of ”once again pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The 17.8 billion euros in reality do not exist and what we are seeing is a reshuffling of funding already approved by the previous center-left government and the shifting of funds from projects like the high-speed rail link to the Messina bridge”.

Maurizio Gasparri, the Senate whip for the government People of Freedom Party (PdL) responded to the criticism by stating that the public works program was ”in line with the actions the government has already adopted to deal with the current crisis”.

”Open work sites, create jobs, modernise infrastructures: this is what the center-right government intends to do, without demagoguery and far away from the empty slogans of the opposition”.

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