Italy has demonstrated the capacity to excel in many fields, from the so-called "3 F’s" (food, fashion, furniture) to mechanical production, civil engineering and scientific research. It has recorded periods of lofty economic development, during which wealth was widely redistributed, and the quality of life of millions of citizens largely improved.
But Italy has also wasted many opportunities to improve its competitiveness and to modernize public administration. The most obvious manifestation of these missed opportunities is the high level of public debt. The nation has responded to this massive burden with significant sacrifices, the evidence of which is seen in the numerous public budgets closed with a primary surplus.
The Italian government is fully committed to modernizing and renewing the country, to reward these joint efforts, through a challenging program of reforms that are implemented promptly and with determination. With facts at hand, the aim is to wipe out long-standing and widespread prejudices about a nation that deserves to promote itself with pride.
Italy’s primary surplus is among the highest in the world and is the most stable among EU Member States in the past 20 years.
In 2013, Italy’s primary surplus as a percentage of GDP was the second highest in the EU, trailing only that for Germany (by 0.16 percentage points) and double that of the surplus for Austria, which ranks third among the EU’s virtuous countries.
Italy’s deficit-to-GDP ratio was below 3% in 2013 and 2012.
Therefore, in 2013, the European Commission sanctioned the closure of the excessive deficit procedure opened in previous years.
According to current forecasts, Italy’s public finances will continue in 2014 to stay within the deficit threshold provided by the European treaties for countries that became part of European Monetary Union and adopted Euro as their currency.
Looking at the other Euro Area Member States, it’s evident that Italy is one of the few countries to have respected this rule.
It is also interesting to note that there are many countries outside the Euro Area with a deficit-to-GDP ratio that exceeds this threshold. These include the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States.
The following infographic, constructed on the basis of data from Ameco and the European Commission, reports the percentage change
in the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2008 (the beginning of the crisis) and 2014 (estimates).
It is evident that the trend of Italy’s debt has been much less dynamic than that in other countries.
Italy’s performance obviously incorporates the primary surplus in the State budget. Higher nominal growth (computed by taking into account inflation and real growth) would have allowed for a declining debt trend.
With the expected growth and the planned sale of State property already being implemented, from 2016 the debt-to-GDP ratio will start to decline.
The European Commission's analysis of the sustainability of the public finances of the Member States in European Monetary Union
SUSTAINABILITY RISK ANALYSIS IN EMU
has confirmed that (in the short, medium and long term) Italy’s risk level is below the Euro Area average as well as the average for the EU27.
According to the Commission's analysis, Italy’s public debt is among the most sustainable in Europe in the long term. The S2 (long-term
sustainability indicator) was -2.1 compared to an EU average of 3.0 and a Euro Area average of 2.3.
Sometimes we think that Italy has received aid from the European Union during the years of the economic crisis.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO EFSF/ESM FUNDS
Instead Italy is the third largest contributor in terms of aid paid directly to struggling countries and to the European financial instruments created during the economic crisis (the so-called EFSF and ESM "bailout funds"), and used to provide financial assistance to Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
As reported in the Supplement to the Statistical Bulletin of the Bank of Italy in October 2014, Italy has provided some 18.5% of this funding from 2012 to 2014, for a total of EUR 60 billion, which contributed to increase the Italian public debt.
Eurostat data show that the national banking and financial systems of the 17 Euro Area countries received government aid in varying
proportions during the economic crisis (2007- 2013).
Italian banks received government support equal to approximately EUR 4 billion, compared with EUR 250 billion in Germany and EUR 165 billion in Great Britain.
The total amount of aid paid in the European Union, calculated by Eurostat, amounted to EUR 688.2 billion. Of this amount, EUR 517.9 billion went to Euro Area countries. Italy’s intervention thus amounts to just under 1% of state aid granted to banks in the Euro Area, and 75% of this support has already been returned to the State by the recipients.