Businesses hail Renzi's reforms, urge more to speed Italy's upturn

Sun Sep 6, 2015 1:22pm EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi and Elvira Pollina

CERNOBBIO, Italy (Reuters) - U.S. computer company Hewlett-Packard (HPQ.N: Quote) is considering increasing investments and hiring new workers in Italy after years of downsizing, because, it says, it has faith, for the first time in a while, that the country is on the mend.

"There is a lot still to be done, but the glass now is looking half-full," said Stefano Venturi, the group's corporate vice-president and its chief executive in Italy, where it has three data centers and 5,000 employees.

His words echoed the cautious optimism in the air at an annual forum of corporate and financial leaders that has long been a barometer of the nation's business mood. 

A fledgling economic recovery after the longest post-war recession is giving companies cause for hope, while Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says his ongoing reform agenda is helping turn around the euro zone's third largest economy.

Over the past 18 months, Renzi has tackled the labor market, the banking sector, education and the public administration, among other areas, even though few reforms are yet operational and their long-term impact remains to be seen.

Renzi turned up at the meeting to reel off his achievements in a speech followed by two hours of questions from foreign and domestic participants on the future of Italy. 

All the executives said there was much more to be done to bring Italy's growth in line with the rest of Europe, tackle stifling bureaucracy and corruption, speed up the justice system, cut taxes and keep control of tottering public finances.

But the overall atmosphere was in sharp contrast to last year's gloomy discussions over the crisis and impatience at the lack of progress, and an internal poll showed 69 percent of participants had an excellent or good assessment of Renzi.   Continued...

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (L) shakes hands with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone during the Italian F1 Grand Prix in Monza September 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Max Rossi