MILAN (AP) - Italy's vaccination campaign is a key factor behind its economic recovery from the pandemic, Premier Mario Draghi said Wednesday after signing a document that forecast a higher-than-expected 6% growth this year.
Draghi called vaccinations "an ingredient that favored this recovery of the Italian economy."
"The fact that you can work with tranquility at a business, that you can travel around, that children and students have returned to school ... this according to me is the fundamental ingredient for growth, which we must protect,'' he said.
Italy has vaccinated 78.4% of its eligible population who are 12 years old and over. Beginning on Oct. 15, health passes will be required for people to access all workplaces. The pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or proof of recent recovery from the virus and it's needed for indoor leisure activities like theaters, museums and dining, as well as for long-distance domestic travel.
Italian budget figures initially projected 4.5% growth, after a contraction of 9% in 2020 when Italy's economy was devastated by draconian lockdowns to contain the pandemic.
The Italian government boosted the 2021 forecast to 6% thanks to strong exports, the impact of government measures to support the economy, improved consumer and business trust and a strong reduction in new virus cases, Economy Minister Daniele Franco told reporters.
The growth trend appears set to continue, with 4.2% increase in GDP expected in 2022.
"There is trust in Italy, among Italians and from the rest of the world toward Italy. That is the other important news,'' Draghi said. Any new measures taken by the government must "contribute to a growth that is equitable and sustainable and durable," he said.
Public debt is projected to drop to 153.5% of GDP this year, from 155.6% last year, which Draghi said was the "first quantitative confirmation" of what central bankers have long contended: that growth is the principal way to attack high public debt.
Draghi called "offensive" repeated questions about whether he would consider replacing Sergio Mattarella as Italian president when Mattarella's term expires next year.
"It is parliament who decides the life, horizons and effectiveness of this government,'' he said. "This government was created to respond to problems specific to a period, and it is doing its job."
He also made clear that the government, with a legislative mandate into 2023, would not hang on to power beyond its usefulness.