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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 01 novembre 2012 alle ore 04:59.
L'ultima modifica è del 01 novembre 2012 alle ore 02:13.


Industrial problems are slowly emerging as an economic policy issue. The signals that emerged yesterday are positive, although still not immune from surprises once they take concrete form. The labor tax wedge, a European directive on payments and the anti-corruption law are also equally strategic topics that will have strong impact on the choices of Italy’s businesses.

First of all, there was a “karate move” on the issue of the labor tax wedge. The parliamentary majority and the government did the right thing in the House: as in Japanese martial arts, they focused all their energies on one point, thus adding overall weight to their punch. The decision not to reduce the first two brackets of income tax—a move that would have been as much praiseworthy as useless, since the reduction was very limited—made it possible to free up the few available resources (about 3 billion euros) in order to boost productivity, an issue Prime Minister Mario Monti considers the main problem with Italy’s economy.

While Parliament will rewrite the norms pertaining to detractions and deductions—which so far have proved to be the most unpleasant aspects for society since they are retroactive in terms of affected brackets and exemptions—the effort to tackle tax incidence and payroll costs is to be praised. Il Sole 24 Ore has supported this since the release of the draft of the stability law: the labor tax wedge is the main reason behind the difference between net salary and labor costs and is worth a record 53 percent, well above the 35.4 percent among OCSE countries.

Political parties are now trying to reach a compromise between lowering taxes and costs for employers and reducing the burden that drags down workers’ compensations. It’s crucial that future choices be determined by having the reduction of Italy’s competitiveness gap as a priority: that’s the easiest way to increase employment (or rescue it) and, by that means, boost available income and therefore consumption and internal demand, which as of now is frozen. In the event resources are directed toward increasing the fund devoted to productivity benefits, the results would be significant from a productivity standpoint.That’s especially true since these resources will be added to a biennal fund of 1.6 billion euros that was inserted into the budget to make possible the productivity agreement that is being negotiated between unions and employers’ associations.

The economy as a whole would benefit from this, and individual workers would see their net salaries increase.

The system will also undoubtedly benefit from the recent (although late) adoption of a European directive pertaining to payments: mandatory deadlines (exceptions will amount to just 60 days) for public-sector bureaucracy and nonmandatory deadlines for private businesses. Public bureaucracies have traditionally been late in paying their bills, with, for example, delays of up to 1,500 days for the suppliers of a few Campania-based public health care systems; the relationship between clients and subsuppliers will be more balanced since now default interest will kick in the day after payment deadlines expire. But the directive will also help bring order to the payment distortions that caused a vicious chain of delays, starting with the central government’s to micro companies forced to function as “banks” for bigger companies.

The anti-corruption law will certainly have a systemic impact on Italy’s businesses. The decision to rely on a white list of suppliers and subsuppliers compliant with existing regulation in the most delicate sectors of construction will help avoid the excruciating problem of anti-mafia certifications, which are as much recurrent as useless. But that will work only if the Interior Ministry is able to convey to prefects the urgency of completing such database. There is already a sad precedent on this issue: in May 2011, the Berlusconi government created a first database of the certifications suppliers were required to submit. The database, which was similar to the white list, stopped at empty words.

A white list will of course require deep and long investigations, given that anti-mafia certification already takes six to eight months. The intention is praiseworthy and positive, but it must be put into practice soon and well, otherwise the aftertaste will be that of a bitter bureaucracy that acts when it should not and does not act when it should.