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How Italy plans to spend €209 billion of EU money

Italy's prime minister on Wednesday set out plans for spending the country's 28 percent share of the €750 billion EU recovery fund aimed at helping countries re-emerge from the coronavirus crisis.

How Italy plans to spend €209 billion of EU money
A wide angle view shows the Italian Air Force acrobatic unit Frecce Tricolori (Tricolored Arrows) performing over the new San Giorgio bridge on its inauguration day on August 3, 2020 in Genoa. AFP

READ ALSO: How the EU agreed its €750 billion rescue plan to save shattered economies

Italy, which pushed hard for more EU support at the height of the crisis, is set to receive the largest share: 209 billion euros, or 28 percent of the entire rescue fund.

The deal was struck back in July after hard-hit Italy and Spain fought for grants, rather than loans – against stiff opposition from the Netherlands and some other northern EU states.
 
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the funding as “an opportunity to build a better Italy” and said he didn't want to “waste a single euro”.
 
As well as using the English phrase “Recovery Fund”, in Italian it is also referred to as the Piano nazionale di resilienza e rilancio, or National Resilience and Relaunch Plan (PNRR).
 
Photo: AFP
 
The money will not start to arrive until the first quarter of 2021, and each country has to detail how it will be spent before the allocated amounts are released.
 
The Italian government on Wednesday sent its Recovery Plan guidelines to parliament for approval.
 
Once approved, Italy will then need to send its draft proposal to Brussels by October 15th, while the deadline to present the final plan is January 2021.
 
 
 
The 38-page document contains plans to lower taxes for the middle class, and to double Italy's economic growth rate.  While we can't detail all of the proposals, here's an overview of what it contains.
 
Six priorities
 
It's hoped the funding could be used to tackle some of the long-standing issues widely seen as holding back Italy, and its economy. Overall the government plan is divided into six areas:
  • Digitalization, innovation and growth
  • Green policies aimed at decarbonisation
  • Transport infrastructure
  • Education, training, research and culture
  • Social cohesion and gender equality
  • Health

Some of the main targets set out in the document include:

  • Doubling the country's economic growth rate, bringing it up from a pre-crisis average of +0.8% over the last decade to 1.6% in line with the European average.
  • Increasing in the employment rate by 10 percentage points, from the current 63%  to 73.2%, closer to the avergae in other EU member states.
  • Increasing research and development expenditure to 2.1% compared to the current 1.3%.

Photo: AFP

Where is the money going?

Nearly 35 billion is destined for hospitals, while schools will receive funding for 368,000 new classrooms and updated equipment, as well as computer voucher to be made available to all families with school-age children. Funds have also been allocated for scholarships.

it is expected that the roll-out of 5G will be financed by the recovery fund in at least 100 cities.

Transport

Just over one billion euros is allocated to the controversial Turin-Lyon (Tav) high-speed railway line, and 4.5 billion for Sicily's planned Palermo-Messina-Catania railway. The plan sets aside 2.6 billion for a direct high-speed link between Naples and Bari in the south.
 
Discounted or free tickets will be made available for public transport within cities.
 
READ ALSO: 
The motorway network must also be adapted to the increased use of electric vehicles with the installation of charging points.
 
More jobs in public administration will be created, and the plan also includes incentives for businesses to allow flexible working and working from home.

Tax reform

The government sas it wants to completely overhaul Italy's tax system, creating “a tax system favorable to growth” by cutting taxes for the middle classes, particularly for families.

The document details plans for “a comprehensive reform of direct and indirect taxation, aimed at designing a simple and transparent fair tax for citizens, which in particular reduces the tax burden on the middle classes and families with children and accelerates the transition of the economic system towards greater environmental sustainability “

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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