Italy approves new stimulus package to help virus-hit economy

Girls wearing face masks walk past a sculpture by Canadian Artist Timothy Schmalz outside Santo Spirito hospital in Rome, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 19 October 2020

Italy approves new stimulus package to help virus-hit economy

  • Among measures to support the health and education system, the government will set up a €4 billion ($4.7 billion) fund to compensate companies worst hit by coronavirus lockdowns

MILAN: Italy has approved a new stimulus package in its 2021 budget to foster an economic rebound from the recession caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, a government statement said on Sunday after a late-night Cabinet meeting.

The ruling coalition, led by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and center-left PD party, agreed on a preliminary version of the stimulus package, a government source said, leaving final details to be hammered out.

Among measures to support the health and education system, the government will set up a €4 billion ($4.7 billion) fund to compensate companies worst hit by coronavirus lockdowns.

The budget also extends temporary layoff schemes for companies with workers on furlough and offers tax breaks to support employment in the poor south of the country.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected on Sunday to also announce new measures to curb the steady spike in COVID-19 cases over recent weeks.

One of the European countries worst hit by the pandemic, Italy has forecast a 9 percent economic contraction for 2020 and a budget deficit equating to 10.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

The expansionary package is expected to keep Italy’s deficit next year to 7 percent of economic output, up from a 5.7 percent forecast in April, reflecting the additional spending.

Italy has forecast economic growth of 6 percent in 2021.

Expansionary measures next year will total €40 billion, including cheap loans and grants from the European Union’s Recovery Fund, Gualtieri told lawmakers this month.


Sweden bans Huawei, ZTE from upcoming 5G networks

Updated 20 October 2020

Sweden bans Huawei, ZTE from upcoming 5G networks

  • European governments have been reviewing the role of Chinese companies in building their networks
  • Sweden’s security service called China ‘one of the biggest threats against Sweden’
STOCKHOLM: Swedish regulators on Tuesday banned the use of telecom equipment from China’s Huawei and ZTE in its 5G network ahead of the spectrum auction scheduled for next month.
The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) said auctions the setting of the license conditions followed assessments by the Swedish Armed Forces and security service.
European governments have been reviewing the role of Chinese companies in building their networks following pressure from the United States, which says they pose a security threat because, among other concerns, Chinese companies and citizens must by law aid the state in intelligence gathering.
Sweden’s security service called China “one of the biggest threats against Sweden.”
The United Kingdom in July ordered Huawei equipment to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by 2027, becoming one of the first European countries to do so.
Huawei and ZTE did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision by Sweden, home to Ericsson, one of Europe’s leading telecoms equipment suppliers.
“The ban leaves network operators with less options and risks slowing the rollout of 5G in markets where competition is reduced,” said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight.
The ban is likely to benefit rival telecom equipment makers Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia.
PTS said companies taking part in the auction must remove Huawei and ZTE gear from existing central functions by Jan. 1, 2025.
The regulator defined central functions as equipment used to build the radio access network, the transmission network, the core network and the service and maintenance of the network.
PTS said the license conditions were decided to address the assessments made by the armed forces and security service.
It has approved the participation of Hi3G Access, Net4Mobility, Telia Sverige and Teracom in the planned spectrum auction of 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz, key bands crucial for the rollout of 5G.
Tele2 and Telenor will participate together as Net4Mobility to secure spectrum for a joint nationwide 5G network.
Tele2, which uses Huawei equipment in its network, which had earlier called Huawei an important vendor, said the PTS decision “does not change our plans substantially.”
“We may have to phase different costs differently between years to meet security conditions on time,” a spokesman told Reuters.
The 5G spectrum auction was originally planned for early 2020, but last year PTS said it would delay the auction due to a security review. PTS announced in April this year that the auction would begin in November.