At the time of writing, the Italian government budget deficit target is 2.4% in 2019, 2.1% in 2020 and 1.8% in 2021. This misses the ECB target of 1.6% each consecutive year. Politicians are hoping to stimulate the country’s lacklustre economy and fulfil pre-election pledges including: the introduction of a guaranteed basic income; the adoption of a flat rate of income tax and the repeal of the previous government’s pension reforms. For the Five Star Movement, the agreement to enlarge the budget deficit and implement their flagship policies is an important step forward, as polls suggest that the party has been losing ground to its coalition partner. However, Italy’s fiscal space is already limited and, despite running a primary surplus, the government’s debt repayments equate to roughly 4% of GDP. According to Fathom calculations, the coalition’s current spending plans would see government debt hit 134% of GDP in 2020. Markets have taken a dim view of the proposed fiscal expansion and are currently pricing in a nearly 15% probability that the Italian government defaults on its debt within the next five years. Several rating agencies had already revised Italy’s outlook to negative ahead of the budget proposals, and any downgrade to the country’s credit rating could spark a new wave of volatility.
- Fathom Consulting