The investment of 50 billion euros in greening of the economy could go a long way in kickstarting the Italian economy and making it more sustainable
When he was still in charge and booming in the polls, Matteo Salvini pledged that he would spend 50 billion euros in a stimulus package aimed to kick-start Italy’s beleaguered economy. The promise to splash cash is one of the great boogeymen of the European Central bank and the ordoliberal orthodoxy that has dominated European policy-making for the last generation. The problem however might not lie with the sum being proposed but rather with the ones promising the cash.
As the representative of a neoliberal party, it can be speculated that this investment plan would not involve the re-distribution of funds in the healthcare, educational or housing sectors, which is badly needed, but rather on environmentally unfriendly white elephants such as the Turin-Lyon mamooth railway link and the construction of new oil and gas pipelines. Moreover, given that his constituency is still primarily based in the North of Italy, it might also be the case that the cash would not be spent in an equitable way between the different regions of Italy, such as the South where it is needed the most. Indeed, given that his electoral base comprises large sections of the petty-bourgeoisie, it might be possible that the cash might be spent on small-scale industries that require the polluting processes, or worse, invest them in bailing out the criminally inefficient provincial banks of the North. Indeed, the programme of the League is conspicuous by its lack of distributive policies and disregards greatly the environment to the profit of financialized capital as exemplified by its regressive tax policy. Given his pledge of installing a flat tax, it might be also possible that he would not even be able to raise the sum of 50 billion to spend on injecting a stimulus in the economy in the first place.
The political scenario has now changed, with the new government formed by two antithetical forces, the Democratic Party and the Five Star Movement, which nonetheless have a shared approach on the environment. However, it might not be so easy. The Italian economy, more than any European economy, is in deep need of some strategic investment and stimulus action. It has long been depressed, suffering the twin curses of low investment and low consumption. The lack of perspective and hope in the future has turned Italy into a nation of hoarders. Currently, there is little investment in strategic growth and in re-qualifying the work force or expanding and moving industries up in the value chain. Moreover, Italy remains a highly unequal society with huge disparities between its citizens. As Italy growth remains anemic, it must also be noted that its economy is highly polluting and dependant on the consumption of fossil fuels. This is why Italy should invest in its own Green New Deal, to tackle the systemics issues that plague the quality of its development; slow growth, inequality and environmental degradation.
The investment of 50 billion euros in greening of the economy could go a long way in kickstarting the Italian economy and making it more sustainable. The hallmark of the Green New Deal would be the transition to renewable sources of energy and the reduction of Italy’s carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s obligations. The investment needed to make this transition, would also translate in the creation of millions of jobs to build the new green and sustainable infrastructure that Italy badly needs to connect its different regions. The green infrastructure would also require renewed investments in research, which would then provide jobs to highly qualified scientists and engineers. This in turn would lead to a sharp reduction of the unemployment levels in Italy and help dent the poverty that the precariat currently endures.
As unemployment will fall, this will also be the chance for Italy to finally increase wages as the bargaining power of Italian workers is bound to increase with a Green New Deal. Examples of the type of investments that could be directed to would be the cleaning and retrofitting of the ILVA plant to produced steel in a clean way. Major investment and workforce would be needed to clean up the Taranto region and the terra dei fuochi area close to Naples. The housing crisis could be averted by reconverting abandoned public building to give environmentally friendly homes to the needy. A smart mechanization of agriculture could in turn lead to a form of organic agriculture that is no longer reliant on the paid slavery of African migrants.
In this process, Italy’s Green New Deal might come to help correct some of long-standing results of Italy’s state capitalism. Moreover, the Green New Deal would lead to mass mobilization of the Italian people to correct the flaws in their economic and governance systems, while working together to building a fruitful environment for their children. A new civic service could make the youth participate in retrofitting housing stocks and the upkeep of forested areas. A sustainability plan could reduce Italy’s addiction to car transport and help Italians shift to more communal forms of public transport, such as trams and metros. Finally, the plan could help reduce the amount of pollution in the country and increase the share of renewables in the production of energy and exploit the country’s geothermal resources.
These are but just a few ideas of how the sum of 50 billion euros could be wisely spent in making the economy of Italy more sustainable and correcting putting the country back on track. Moreover, it will help reverse the cycle of austerity and make Italy’s economy more productive, by providing both low-skilled and high-skilled jobs. The only remaining challenge would be to find a political force that will be able to sell the idea to the Italian population. Will the new government be up to the task?