The paper looks at regional economic structure and performance of Italian regions and reviews some recent contributions focussed on the Italian “Mezzogiorno” with a specific focus on the effect of the 2008 financial crisis and the recent Pandemics (Covid-19) crisis. A comparison between Italy and the rest of the EU indicates a structural difference between the underperforming Italian economy and the rest of the Union due to the specific structure of the Italian economy in terms of sector and firm size and the consequences on strategic and organizational issues of weak small businesses and inefficient medium and large enterprises. Moreover, the subordinate positioning of Italian firms in global value chains has been also identified as one of the reasons behind their poor performance in terms of productivity. Since “space matters”, when designing policies, decision makers should consider the role that agglomeration process and the improvement of quality of supra-regional infrastructures may play in the development of more advances regions, while allowing some trickling-down towards low-performing regions.
The recent literature on the North-South divide in Italy has refuted a homogeneous reading and treatment of the “Southern question” and has recalled the importance of deep intra-South disparities. This paper contributes to this line of research, offering some descriptions of intra-South disparities. We first make use of data at the firm level pertaining to the manufacturing sector between 2008 and 2019 to show how productive units differ within each macro-area according to their main balance-sheet indicators and to technical efficiency, both in terms of their average and variability. Secondly, we use different data available at the provincial level to assess the territorial disparities existing with regard to crucial indicators (exports, patents, infrastructure, education, social capital etc.). Overall, this paper shows how relevant intra-South variability is and how manifold disparities may be intertwined in a very complex way, shaping the dynamics of territories, sectors, and firms.
Based on official statistics and original estimates, the paper investigates the enduring consequences of the Great Recession and pandemic crises on the Sicilian economy. It underlines the need for regional resilience in response to the new industrial trends. Since 2008, gross fixed capital formation declined, unemployment and skilled outmigration raised. Most of the private savings turned into real estate and property rent. The percentage of value added originated from the non-observed economy expanded to one-fifth of the whole aggregate value-added. Still, simultaneously, some positive phenomena emerged in terms of new firm creation and export dynamics. In perspective, a policy linking household demand to high value-added services and manufacturing with more intensive use of skilled human capital might drive private savings to more productive uses. A new paradigm for growth is needed, with an overall sustainability flavour concerning infrastructure endowment, productive specialization, and administrative efficiency.
Under what conditions can Sardinia – a peripheral island with a small population – proceed along a steady path of economic development? This is the crucial question addressed in this paper, which examines the economic and social situation of Sardinia within the national and the European scenario which is characterized by a strong polarization process fuelled by agglomeration forces. The analysis suggests facing the economic downturn by investing in education, innovation, and local institutions in order to provide a better environment for citizens and firms and to exploit regional comparative advantages.
The Calabrian economy is best described by the paradigm of “weak development”, meaning that the region’s economic system is unable to fully take advantage of periods of economic expansion to bridge the gap with more developed regions and is not equipped to cope successfully with periods of recession. The reasons for the “weak development” of Calabria can be attributed, in general, to external diseconomies. We analyse these external diseconomies to obtain an overview of the causes that have historically led to the development differential between Calabria and Italy. In this scenario, a type of “compensatory” or “add-on” regional development policy ends up accentuating the differences between regions. Development policy should instead operate with minimal interventions to create strong connections between economic players and combine production activities with services to favour the servitization that can influence the “weak” factors within the economic system and stimulate innovation and competitiveness.
After a triennium (2015-2017) of relative growth, the economy of Campania (and the Mezzogiorno) has significantly slowed down, and the gap with Centre-North has increased again. Thus, as in the past, the economic, institutional, social, and political aspects of the structural fragility characterizing the region have again made the positive short-term conjuncture little effective in triggering a real and durable process of convergence towards the more developed Centre-Northern regions. This paper aims to single out the strengths and weaknesses in the industrial structure of the region by focusing specifically on firm demography; industrial specialization; firm productivity, competitiveness, and financial conditions; the propensity to innovation and international openness. Hingeing on the results of this analysis, features and targets for suitable policy measures are proposed, aimed at promoting a faster pace in the near-future development of Campania and the Mezzogiorno in order to overcome their long-lasting gap with Centre-Northern Italy and other European regions.
Del Monte’s book deals with the convergence among different and heterogeneous areas of a single country. He has adopted a comparative approach: the two less developed areas are the two Souths, Italy, and the USA. Its purpose is to explain the fact that the famous convergence thesis of neo-classical growth theory holds for the American South but not for the Mezzogiorno. In a first approximation, the answer lies in the fact that growth in the South of the USA and the Mezzogiorno followed two different patterns. In the former, the crucial role was played by manufacturing and exports, while in the latter by public expenditure and other fiscal transfers. This explanation needs some further clarifications, which indeed are given in the book. Special attention is given to cultural and institutional as distinct from strictly economic factors in the development processes.