Nicolò Campo via Getty Images
The big announcement comes on live TV at dinner time. The communication protocol is repeated once again: the camera aimed at Giuseppe Conte, the trusted ministers alongside, a decree to be translated and delivered to the Italians. A number is needed to quantify aid to businesses. Closed, with revenue zeroed but bills, rent and other expenses still to be paid. Here is the number, marked by the premier and accompanied with the expression “firepower”: 400 billion. The 400 billion are the guarantees that the state will put on business loans. The company goes to the bank, takes the loan and if it does not repay it within six years, the state will take care of it. This is the formula of the guarantee, but the same rules of the decree open gray areas, do not respond clearly to the big question that entrepreneurs ask themselves, whether they are small or large: when does the money come?
The trace of the decree says of a mountain of money: added to the 350 billion already foreseen by the March decree, the 400 billion rise to 750 billion. Almost half of the GDP. But the procedures are to be verified, better to test. Cura Italia, among other things hostage to opposition in Parliament, is there to remind that the arrival of bonuses and layoffs in March is set for April 15, with a two-week lag compared to the needs of a country that it stopped earlier, with the lockout coming into force on 11 March. Always – and doubt is not a gamble given how the INPS machine has jammed – that they arrive within half a month. The big question that Conte's announcement does not clarify is, as was said, that of the arrival of money. But it also generates another: the anxiety in adapting the strategy against the virus, which is also disordered, in the fast times of the country's crisis. The bet is played here and that is in showing that in an emergency time like the one you are experiencing, the chain of command is capable of an extraordinary, exceptional rhythm. In a nutshell to break the cumbersome process made up of forms to be filled in, documents to be submitted and authorizations to be received. Even more: breaking the snare of bureaucracy, of the great brake on businesses.
According to the draft decree (the text approved by the Council of Ministers is not yet available ed), some critical issues can already be found. Take small and medium-sized enterprises, but also VAT numbers and self-employed people who have a not excessive turnover. Who can trust to take an immediate loan is the craftsman, the small trader, the plumber, the professional VAT number, the sole proprietorships. These and all those who will ask the bank up to 25 thousand euros. Only up to this quota will there be no assessment of the creditworthiness, that is, they will not have to wait for the outcome of the analysis on the reliability of repaying the loan. The loans, in this case, will be direct: the banks will not have to wait for the go-ahead from the Guarantee Fund – the money container – to disburse the resources. But climbing up, the poles appear. The 100% guarantee (the state repays all the loan to the bank if the company does not repay it) drops to 90% for loans between 25 thousand and 800 thousand euros: the 10% that remains uncovered is on the shoulders of the company, it is not covered. The draft says that this 10% is covered by Confidi, but they are private, not public credit lines. From 800 thousand euros and up to 5 million euros, the state guarantee is only 90 percent. For both the latest types of loans, there will be no trend assessment. When the entrepreneur goes to the bank to ask for money, the health check will not take into account the damage caused by the virus for the past few weeks. But a more general check will still be done. And so we return to the big question: will these steps be quick? Could not an even faster system be adopted as in France or Germany? The questions are lawful. Matteo Renzi, who pushed to the end to bring all the guarantees to 100 percent, also took it. Here is how the leader of Italia Viva comments hotly on the decree: “We were hoping for a simpler and less bureaucratic mechanism, but that's fine!”.
For large companies, those that with more than 500 employees according to the division made by the government, the guarantee will be 90% up to a maximum of 25% of the turnover recorded last year. The same consideration applies here for a part of small and medium-sized enterprises: part of the loan will not have the protection of the state umbrella. The guarantee, in fact, will cover between 70% and 90% of the amount financed, depending on the size of the company. Even the part on the postponement, for April and May, of tax and social security contributions, ie withholdings, VAT and social security contributions, has some limits. Those with revenues of less than 50 million euros are entitled to it if they have lost at least 33% of revenues compared to a year ago. Who has revenues above 50 million, if he has lost half.
These are the gray areas of the decree which, as was said, puts into place 400 billion guarantees: 200 billion for those within national borders, another 200 for exports. The disbursement scheme passes through two large distributors: the Guarantee Fund and Sace, the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti company dedicated to exports and changed clothes for the occasion. Already Sace. Together with the share of state guarantees, it was the big issue that kept the decree blocked in a pinwheel driven by mediations, majority leaders and even a CDM suspended by an hour and a half for manifest inability to deliberate. A whirlwind that lasted two days. And appeased only with a compromise between the Treasury and the 5 stars. Because this too was the gestation of the decree for businesses: a flurry of ups and downs between powers and interests to be balanced within the government. Not even the emergency has canceled the stretch of litigation.