Many Italian Businesses to Reopen Thanks to Bureaucratic Loophole

Italian
ANDREA PATTARO/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — The Italian government is allowing tens of thousands of Italian firms to resume their operations due to the state’s inability to process the avalanche of requests that has inundated it.

Last week the government extended the closure of “non-essential” businesses until May 3rd, but it has also allowed firms that believe they form part of vital supply chains to essential businesses to apply for permission to reopen.

After the government was flooded with more than 105,000 such requests, mostly from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the interior ministry told businesses that given the impossibility to process so many requests in a timely fashion, all those who have filed for permission may reopen while they await an eventual response, effectively giving many firms carte blanche to circumvent the coronavirus lockdown.

On its website, the Prime Minister’s office has produced an exhaustive list of the type of businesses currently deemed “essential,” including everything from dry cleaners to computer servicing, from hardware stores to photography shops, and from food markets to motor manufacturers.

In theory, any other business that forms part of the supply chain to keep essential services running has a right to be open as well, which explains the immense rush of applications.

At the moment, just over 2,000 firms that applied to reopen have been refused permission, while another 38,000 are presently being reviewed. All the rest — more than 50,000 — form the queue of those whose applications are still waiting to be processed. In the meantime, however, they have been given the green light to get back to work.

In Italy, some four million businesses employ fewer than ten persons and SMEs form the backbone of the Italian economy. A portion of these will be able to take advantage of a typically Italian solution to surmounting obstacles: its proverbial government inefficiency.

One of the major industries that will continue to languish, however, is tourism. Restaurants, coffee bars, museums, and parks remain closed, and many hotels have closed down operations due to an absence of clientele.

Italy’s massive fashion industry is suffering as well, and the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI), which represents the industry, took out a full-page advertisement in national papers this week calling for the government to allow it to resume business.

“If our factories do not reopen by April 20th, we won’t be able to deliver our Autumn/Winter collections which must be sent by July to our clients all over the world,” CNMI head Carlo Capasa said in the advertisement.

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