Conte’s ‘Simplification’ Drive Is Proving Anything But Simple

Simplifying Italy’s bureaucracy, a tangled, Byzantine nightmare of rules and regulations that’s long scared off investors, is proving to be anything but simple.

A so-called simplification decree the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is aiming to pass as early as this week contains no fewer than 48 articles, according to a draft obtained by Bloomberg.

The package is a laundry list of new rules and procedures for doing business in the country, covering everything from public tenders to state investments, to building-work authorizations, to improving digital services at local level.

Conte’s ‘Simplification’ Drive Is Proving Anything But Simple

The draft, which could be revised in the coming days, may go to the cabinet for approval on July 2, daily La Stampa reported Monday. Conte’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The would-be reforms are part of a Conte campaign to persuade the European Union to unlock proposed grants and loans to help him salvage an economy devastated by the coronavirus lockdown.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde earlier this month laid out conditions that, in her view, European countries including Italy need to foster in order to improve their investment climate.

“Mobilizing investment requires above all a business-friendly economic environment,” Lagarde said, pointing to the need for “efficient and agile public and private services, adequate physical and digital infrastructures, a well-functioning judicial system and a strong financial sector.”

By that measure, Italy has a lot of work to do. As Conte looks to demonstrate that his government is capable of disbursing potentially billions of euros of EU funds, the country hasn’t proved capable even of allocating money from its own government, according to the national audit court.

Italy’s 20 regions, for example, are using only a fifth of funds allocated for protection from hydro-geological risks, because of bureaucratic red tape, the court said in a report late last year.

And since Conte’s decree will likely be the target of a blizzard of amendments as it moves through Italy’s two houses of parliament, 48 complex articles may just be the beginning.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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