Govt unveils drive to lure foreign investment
Destination Italy to kick off next week in New York19 September, 20:04
(ANSA) - Rome, September 19 - A package of measures to encourage foreign investment in Italy - called Destination Italy - was unveiled in a Rome cabinet meeting on Thursday.
The programme features dozens of initiatives - some already taken, others in the works - to simplify, facilitate, and attract business, which Premier Enrico Letta told journalists he would take on a roadshow to the world's financial capitals.
''It will start next week in New York,'' Letta told a press conference to present the new programme. The next stop, he said, will be in an Persian Gulf country.
The programme includes standardized procedures to speed up approval processes; tailored tax agreements for large scale investments; simplified work-rules available and clearly stated in English; reduced penalties for minor tax non-compliance issues; lower and more predictable energy costs through introducing a futures market for gas, and fully integrating Italy with European energy markets; and a simpler legal system for businesses, putting all commercial legal issues under the jurisdiction of the business court, and concentrating all cases concerning foreign firms in Milan, Rome and Naples, the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reported on its website Thursday.
''Our country is not afraid of globalization. On the contrary, we want to be in this system, with a model that is neither an outlet (mall), where everything is sold low cost, nor Fort Apache, in which one defends everything Italian by tooth and nail,'' Letta told journalists. The programme is likely to reach final form in the beginning of October, Letta said.
He called the current draft ''a 0.5 version'' that still require feedback from public and private institutions.
Letta also said Destination Italy kicks off a programme of privatisation, which he predicted would be ''a theme of the autumn'', but would not elaborate on what types of public assets it would include.
The plan includes a section devoted to southern Italy, with guidance for investors ''facing implicit or explicit criminal aggression''.
The World Bank currently ranks Italy 73rd among 185 countries for ease of doing business. Spain and France rank 44th and 34th, respectively.
Foreign direct investment in Italy was $19.5 billion in 2011, but has fluctuated between $79 billion in 2008 and $3.2 billion in 2009, according to the latest data available on the website Index Mundi, which bases its information on data from international economic organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the OECD and the World Bank.
''Our country has a dramatic need for foreign investment'' which is ''too low'', Letta complained, and vowed to ''give a strong signal to the world to make economic and financial investments'' in Italy.