Sharing his predictions on the economy less than a month ago, Luigi Di Maio, the Italian deputy prime minister, believed the country was on the cusp of an economic miracle akin to the one enjoyed in the 1960s.
“During that period we built highways, now we can build digital highways,” he enthused. His comments were met with derisive laughter.
There was even less to laugh about on Thursday when figures revealed that Italy, which is saddled with a public debt of about 130% of GDP, had lurched back into recession for the third time in a decade.
Fabio Franceschi, owner of Grafica Veneta, Italy’s largest printing house, is among the many businesspeople in despair. “The country is in the hands of a couple of kids,” he told the Observer, referring to Di Maio and his co-deputy, Matteo Salvini.
Far from being on the verge of a boom, Italy is at a “tipping point”, he added. “We hope they become conscious [of the situation], as things are becoming really difficult.”
Franceschi said the decline was partly due to the uncertainty being created by a government whose 2019 budget contains little in the way of spurring investment, and which has made blocking migrants at Italian ports, spats with France and campaigning ahead of the European elections in May its priorities.