Employers see recession dragging on till 4th quarter

Recession won't end till 4th quarter, says Confindustria

Employers see recession dragging on till 4th quarter

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, June 27 - Industrial employers' confederation Confindustria said Thursday that it expected Italy's longest recession in over 20 years to continue until the fourth quarter as it painted a bleak picture of the country's economic plight. Confindustria's research centre added in a report that Italy had "touched the bottom" with the global economic crisis in its sixth year. It said it could only see "scattered evidence" of recovery and forecast that Italy would post negative growth of 1.9% this year, revising down its previous estimate of -1.1% for gross domestic product (GDP). The report said that it no longer expected the recession to end in the summer, saying "a weak recovery" should start in the fourth quarter. It also revised down its growth forecast for 2014 from 0.6% to 0.5%. "In the sixth year of crisis, there are signs here and there of the end of the fall and, more randomly, indications of a turning point," the report said. "There's a mixed bunch of scattered evidence that makes it possible to perceive the start of the recovery, although this does not represent a solid basis to forecast it". Confindustria said on Thursday that around 700,000 people have been put out of work since 2007, just before the start of the global economic crisis. It expects this figure to rise to 817,000 by the end of next year. It also forecast that unemployment will climb to 12.4% by the end of this year and 12.7% by the end of 2014. The report added that these figures would be 13.9% and 14% respectively if the calculations include people idled after being temporarily laid off by their firms. National statistics agency Istat recently said that unemployment in Italy has reached a record high of 12%, with close to three million people out of work. Confindustria also bemoaned the tax hikes former premier Mario Monti's emergency technocrat administration introduced last year as part of austerity measures to restore health to Italy's public finances. These further raised the country's already high tax burden and contributed to deepening the recession. "Tax pressure is reaching a historic high of 44.6% of GDP in 2013 and it will remain unsustainably high in 2014," the report said. Confindustria praised Premier Enrico Letta's left-right administration, which replaced Monti's government in April, for putting greater emphasis on promoting growth. But the confederation's chief economist, Luca Paolazzi, said the measures approved up to now were "very limited" and that the government "lacked a plan" to combat the crisis. Despite the administration's problems, Confindustria chief Giorgio Squinzi warned that no one should try to cause trouble for Letta's government. Letta's executive is the fruit of an unprecedented alliance between his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. The long-standing foes were forced together in April to end two months of political deadlock after February's general election failed to produce a clear winner. But the partners have been bickering about several policy issues. The PdL has threatened to sink the government if it fails to scrap an unpopular property tax called IMU and avert a scheduled 1% rise on the top band of value added tax (VAT) - a hike that on Wednesday the cabinet postponed until October to buy time to find the money to avoid it all together. Berlusconi's legal problems have heightened tension too, after the three-time premier was handed a seven-year term in a sex trial on Monday and failed in a bid to have the Constitutional Court strike down a four-year fraud conviction last week. "We cannot miss the opportunity to have the government work assiduously and serenely," said Squinzi. "The government needs to have prospects of long-term stability that give it time to prepare and consolidate a plan of economic policy. "This executive is the only solution possible. It's a government of people of good will. It's moving in the right direction, step by step". Squinzi added that he was pleased about the package of measures the government presented Wednesday to combat youth unemployment by providing tax breaks for firms who hire under-30s on permanent full-time contracts. He also applauded the postponement in the rise in the top band of VAT from 21% to 22%, while saying that the priority should be for the government to beef up moves to pay public-sector debts to private suppliers and to act to reduce labour taxes.

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