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1ST LEAD Italy sees GDP growth at six-year high, but is still eurozone laggard By Alvise Armellini, dpa

Europe
16.08.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Rome (dpa) - Italy is experiencing its best growth rates in six years, but the eurozone‘s third-largest economy is still lagging behind most of its peers.

On a quarterly basis, gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.4 per cent in April-June, while year-on-year growth reached 1.5 per cent, national statistics institute Istat reported Wednesday.

The 1.5-per-cent figure is the highest growth rate registered since the first quarter of 2011, when the eurozone‘s third-largest economy expanded by 2.1 per cent.

The uptick was driven by industry, services and internal demand, while agriculture and external demand dragged down growth, Istat said.

The data suggests that Italy‘s recovery is stronger than previously expected. Last month, the Bank of Italy had forecast growth of 1.4 per cent for this year.

This is a relief for Rome‘s centre-left government, giving it extra room for manoeuvre as it prepares budget plans for next year, and gets ready for general elections due in the first half of 2018.

"Better than the forecasts. A good basis to revive the economy and employment," Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni commented on Twitter.

A stronger economy would allow it to limit budget trimming efforts, a high priority since Italy is under European Union pressure to contain its mammoth public debt, standing at more than 130 per cent of GDP.

Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said limited public resources should focus on public investment, anti-poverty schemes and tax breaks for hiring young people and private investment.

"We have not done enough for young people. They will also start to benefit from broad economic growth [...] but specific measures to support their entry into the job market should accelerate this," Padoan said in a statement.

After the global financial crash of 2008, Italy experienced the worst economic slump since World War II. The economy started to recover gradually in 2014.

However, Italy‘s growth remains lower than the eurozone average, and the country is plagued by high unemployment and low productivity, suggesting it still has a lot of economic catch up to do.

"Elsewhere, GDP is rising at far higher rates, [so] the gap between Italy and its main trade and financial partner is relentlessly increasing with each quarter," Andrea Goldstein, chief economist at the Nomisma think tank, noted.

Another economist, Daniele Antonucci of Morgan Stanley bank, said the Italian economy was "chugging along," while GDP for 2017 was expected to rise by 2.1 per cent in the eurozone, and by 3.2 per cent in fellow Mediterranean country Spain.

 

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