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International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
The pandemic dealt a severe blow to the Italian people and their economy. GDP fell by nearly 9 percent in 2020, with much larger drops for contact-intensive services. Public and corporate debt increased strongly and preexisting vulnerabilities have likely worsened. The government is prioritizing resolving the health emergency and transforming the economy to lift productivity, improve social outcomes and strengthen resilience to future shocks and structural change. The large National Recovery and Resilience Plan—partly financed by sizable Next Generation EU resources—will be used to increase physical and social infrastructure. Outlook. GDP is expected to recover strongly in 2021–22 and to grow well-above trend over the medium term, supported by investment spending. Nonetheless, economic scarring could be sizable. The two-sided risks relate to how the pandemic progresses, the efficiency of investment spending and the extent of savings drawdown, with large costs associated with the downside.
Mario di Serio, Matteo Fragetta, and Mr. Giovanni Melina
We compute government spending multipliers for the Euro Area (EA) contingent on the interestgrowth differential, the so-called r-g. Whether the fiscal shock occurs when r-g is positive or negative matters for the size of the multiplier. Median estimates vary conditional on the specification, but the difference between multipliers in the negative and positive r-g regimes differs systematically from zero with very high probability. Over the medium run (5 years), median cumulated multipliers range between 1.22 and 1.77 when r-g is negative, and between 0.51 and 1.26 when r-g is positive. We show that the results are not driven by the state of the business cycle, the monetary policy stance, or the level of government debt, and that the multiplier is inversely correlated with r-g. The calculations are based on the estimates of a factor-augmented interacted panel vector-autoregressive model. The econometric approach deals with several technical problems highlighted in the empirical macroeconomic literature, including the issues of fiscal foresight and limited information.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic loss of human life and major damage to the European economy, but thanks to an exceptionally strong policy response, potentially devastating outcomes have been avoided.

Nicoletta Batini, Francesco Lamperti, and Andrea Roventini
The COVID-19 lockdowns have brought about the need of large fiscal responses in all European countries. However, countries across Europe are differently equipped to respond to the shock due to differences in economic conditions and fiscal space. We build on the model by Berger et al. (2019) to compare gains from alternative mechanisms of EU fiscal integration in the presence of moral hazard. We show that any EU response strategy to the COVID-19 crisis excluding mutual financial support to member countries lacks credibility. Some form of fiscal risk sharing is indeed better than none, especially in presence of increasing sovereign default risk of some EU member countries. The moral hazard created by risk sharing can be hedged by introducing some form of fiscal delegation to Brussels. The desirable level of delegation, however, depends on its costs. When these are low, risk sharing and delegation are substitutes and it is optimal to opt for high delegation and low risk sharing. On the contrary, when delegation costs are high, centralization and risk sharing are complements and both are needed. Proposed arrangements at the EU level in response to the COVID-19 shock seem to reflect these basic insights by rotating around a combination of fiscal risk sharing and delegation in the form of fiscal spending conditionality.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2020 Article IV Consultation with Italy reflects discussions with the Italian authorities in January 2020 and is based on the information available as of January 28, 2020. It focuses on Italy’s medium-term challenges and policy priorities and was prepared prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Italy. It, therefore, does not cover the outbreak or the related policy response, which has since become the overarching near-term priority. The outbreak has greatly amplified uncertainty and downside risks around the outlook. Staff is closely monitoring this health crisis and will continue to work on assessing its impact and the related policy response in Italy and globally. The overarching challenges are to raise growth and enhance resilience. The IMF staff projects growth in Italy to be the lowest in the European Union over the next five years. High public debt remains a key source of vulnerability. Substantial progress has been made in strengthening bank balance sheets, but important weaknesses remain. In order to durably raise growth and reduce vulnerabilities, Italy needs faster potential growth and medium-term fiscal consolidation.