Italy's 'epochal' recovery plan targets women, youth, south

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Italian Premier Minister Mario Draghi addresses the Chamber of Deputies, in Rome, Monday, April 26, 2021. Italian Premier Mario Draghi is presenting a 222.1 billion euro ($268.6 billion) coronavirus recovery plan to Parliament. The plan is aiming to not only bounce back from the pandemic but enact "epochal" reforms to address structural problems that long predated COVID-19. (Alberto Pizzoli/Pool via AP)

ROME – Italian Premier Mario Draghi presented a 222.1 billion euro ($268.6 billion) coronavirus recovery plan to Parliament on Monday, aiming to not only help Italy bounce back from the pandemic but enact “epochal” reforms to address structural problems that long predated COVID-19.

Italy has the biggest share of the EU’s 750 billion euro ($907 billion) recovery pot, with 191.5 billion euros ($231.6 billion) of its six-year plan financed by EU funds. Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief, was put in the premier’s office specifically to make sure the money isn’t wasted since Italy has long had one of the worst records in the EU of making use of available funds.

Draghi told lawmakers Monday to not view the plan as merely a set of figures and tables, but rather as a recipe of values and priorities for a nation traumatized by the pandemic, loss of life and livelihoods and in need of a credible future for its children.

“I am certain that honesty, intelligence and the taste for the future will prevail over corruption, stupidity and special interests," he said.

The plan is heavy on investments to modernize and digitize Italy’s economy and bureaucracy and encourage environmentally sustainable development. Both are directed particularly at the all-important tourism industry — think Venice, the Colosseum and Amalfi coast — which accounts for 13% of Italy’s gross domestic product and was devastated by pandemic-related closures.

Greater employment options for women and young people are prioritized, given youth unemployment tops 30% and Italy has long ranked at the bottom of the EU in terms of the percentage of women in the workforce. Women accounted for more than half the 456,000 jobs lost in Italy last year.

Here’s a look at Italy’s plans, which were announced on the same day that most of the country began emerging from its latest coronavirus lockdown, with museums reopening and restaurants and bars open for outdoor service.

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