Location: Italy

COVID-19 | The Case of Italy

An image of COVID-19 virus representing the COVID-19 outbreak in Sweden

Italy was the first European country to experience the Covid-19 pandemic on its territory, and as of today, March 30, it is the most heavily affected. Because of this, there is already ample coverage of the Italian case from multiple sources. Nevertheless, and although the country is not part of the FREE network region, we report on the covid-19 crisis in Italy, for two reasons.

Since SITE has a substantial share of Italian nationals in its staffing, following and updating the Italian statistics and measures to parallel the reporting from our core countries is relatively easy.

We intend for our report on Italy to provide a useful benchmark for the policy measures implemented by other countries, as Italy represents the first country hit in Europe and therefore the most surprised and least prepared case.

Basic Facts

Italy is a country of around 60 million people, with capital Rome, around 3 million. Around 10 million live in Lombardy, the region most heavily hit by the pandemic, and 1,3 million in Milan, its largest city. Italy is a founding member of the European Community and part of the Eurozone.

The main responsibility for health care delivery in Italy is at the level of the 20 regions and 2 autonomous provinces, although the central government, through the Health Ministry, oversees and coordinates the national strategy. The whole of the health care system, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), which includes several national level institutes and subsidiary bodies on scientific advice plus the regional providers Aziende Sanitarie Locali (ASL) and Aziende Ospedaliere (AO), is among the best in the world for accessibility and cost efficiency, according to WHO and based on the Bloomberg Health-Care Efficiency Index. The responsibility for education is at the national level, divided between the Education Ministry and the Ministry for University and Research. Professional education is instead left to the regions. Social services to the elderly, the disabled, and needy families are dealt with by local authorities, sometimes with the assistance of volunteer associations and non-profit social service cooperatives.

Health Indicators

On January 30, the first two cases of coronavirus were reported in Italy: two Chinese tourists from Wuhan were hospitalized in Rome. They had landed 10 days before in Milan (January 23th).

On February 21, the first local infection was reported at the hospital of Codogno, in Lombardy (a 38 years old man). All the people who were in contact with him (including in the hospital) were contacted, tested and asked to isolate themselves (around 100 persons). Nevertheless, few days later hundreds of cases were reported in the area around Lodi in Lombardy, and in Veneto. The indicators on Covid-19 numbers in the table are from the newspaper Il Sole 24 ore. The numbers of hospital beds are from the NCBI as reported by the Financial Times. The OECD provides statistics on nurses and doctors. Capacity is being expanded in real time during these weeks, but this is not reported in a systematic way, as far as we could see.

Financial and Economic Indicators

As part of the EU and Eurozone, Italy does not have a sovereign monetary policy, but depends on the European Central Bank.

The stock market data is from the Italian Stock Exchange ; we focus on the performance of the main index, called FTSE MIB.

Since February 23, all layoffs of workers were put on hold for two months. There is no current reporting on this, and the latest available data is from before the pandemic and therefore can be seen as unrelated.

Short Summary of Health Crisis Measures

From January 23 (when a flight from Wuhan with 202 passengers was supposed to land in Rome) controls on passengers from Wuhan were started. These included temperature controls with scanners at major airports and mandatory submission of schedules with destinations and travel plans for all the passengers coming from Wuhan. In Rome and Milan airports, posters were put up explaining the typical symptoms of the new coronavirus, encouraging to avoid non-important travels to Wuhan and to get a flu vaccine at least two-week prior departure. The posters also gave typical hygiene recommendations such as hand washing, avoiding contact with sick people or crowded places, as well as contact with animals and raw meat, and recommendation to avoid travel if sick.

Flights to and from China were suspended as soon as the infection was detected in the two tourists, on January 30. As a precautionary measure, the same routines implemented for the SARS epidemic in 2003 were started: the Council of Ministers declared a state of emergency with a duration of 6 months starting January 31, and allocated EUR 5 million to this.

On February 22, through a decree from the central government, 10 Italian towns suspected to be outbreaks of coronavirus were put on lockdown.

On February 29, with over 1000 infected, the regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna closed schools and universities. This was extended to the national territory on March 4, when also public attendance of football matches, cinemas and theatres was suspended for 1 month. The one-meter distance rule, with no hugs and no handshakes, was also introduced.

On March 7 and March 9, the lockdown was subsequently expanded to cover the national territory. On March 21, all nonessential production was stopped to halt the spread of coronavirus. As of March 30, the lockdown was prolonged two more weeks.

Government Economic Policies

Labor Market

  1. All layoffs started after February 23 are put on hold.
  2. Payments of social contributions are put on hold.
  3. Sick-pay restrictions are reduced (12 extra days per month allowed).
  4. Government funding for shortened or suspended working time.
  5. 500€ lump sum benefit for all free-lancers that are not part of safety nets.
  6. Most public and private employers must allow distance work. (Exception are allowed, and the criteria to be used have been hotly debated between workers and industry representatives.)
  7. Parental leave with 50% compensation for all private employees with children younger than 12 for up to 15 days since March 5. Alternatively, up to 600€ bonus for private childcare.

Tax Breaks

  1. Tax payments due between March and May are put on hold.
  2. Tax credits proportional to costs (chiefly rents and sanitation) for commercial activities.

Emergency Loans, Guarantees and Support

  1. Extra funding for repurposing of production towards medical needs.
  2. Loan guarantees, liquidity support and suspension of repayments for SMEs.
  3. Financial support to sports and Alitalia.
  4. Extra funding (400 millions) to municipalities to provide basic support (food stamps) to households with special needs (these are mostly households whose main source of income are jobs in the informal sector, which as such do not qualify for any safety net.)

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Buyer Competence and Procurement Renegotiations

20191201 Buyer Competence and Procurement Renegotiations FREE Network Policy Brief Image 01

This brief deals with the extent to which a more competent public bureaucracy can contribute to better economic outcomes. It addresses this question in the context of public procurement, governments’ purchase of goods and services from private contractors, which accounts for about 15% of GDP in most economies and is on the rise. The efficiency of the procurement process directly influences the prices and quality of many government-provided goods and services that are crucial to social welfare objectives and sustained economic growth. Several issues challenge this efficiency. Media attention is typically on episodes of corruption, which can of course be a major source of waste. Here, we focus on a less glamorous, often overlooked, but potentially even more important source of waste, the lack of procurement competence.

Public procurement is a complex task. Contracting authorities must know market characteristics, design and implement efficient award mechanisms, balance risks and incentives in drafting contracts, effectively manage the contracts in the execution phase, etc. Effective procurement, in particular for complex services or works, requires teams endowed with legal, marketing, engineering, and economic/strategic expertise. The World Bank‘s Benchmarking Public Procurement 2017 compares the quality of the legal and regulatory environments of 180 countries and reveals the existence of great heterogeneity in the quality of the procurement processes across countries. Saussier and Tirole (2015) focus on the case of France, documenting that 63% of the staff of French contracting authorities do not have a legal profile, and only 39% have qualifications specific for managing public purchases.

Recent research focusing on prices of standardized goods showed that (lack of) buyer competence among public buyers could make an even bigger impact on the waste of public funds than corruption. For example, Bandiera, Prat and Valletti (2009) estimate that Italian public buyers would save 21 percent of their expenditures if they all paid the same as the buyers at the 10th percentile of the estimated procurement price distribution. Savings could reach 1.6-2.1 percent of the Italian GDP per year. They then estimate that bureaucratic inefficiency also linked to incompetence is the main cause of waste, accounting for 83 percent of total estimated waste, compared to only 17 percent due to corruption. In a similar vein, Best, Hjort and Szakonyi (2017) report that over 40 percent of within-product price variation on standardized goods in Russia in 2011-2015 can be ascribed to the bureaucrats and organizations in charge of procurement. They estimate that if the least effective quartile of bureaucrats and organizations had the effectiveness of the 75th percentile, the Russian government would save around $13 billion per year – roughly one fifth of the total amount spent on health care by the Russian government at federal, regional, and municipal level combined.[1]

The role of competence in complex procurement

This problem is becoming even more serious now that, being under fiscal pressure after the crises, many governments are promoting the use of public procurement not only as a tool to save budgets – sometimes at the expense of quality – but also to achieve more complex objectives like fostering innovation, protecting the environment, and promoting social objectives, a multiplicity of goals that per se makes the procurement mission even more complex.

Little is known about the importance of procurement competence in more complex procurements, not least because it is very difficult to measure performance in these environments. In our paper (Decarolis et al. (2019)) we try to make a step in this direction by focusing on works and services, typically more complex than goods. We use data from the US, probably the country with the most well-developed system of production and certification of procurement competences. Thus, our estimates of the effect of lack of competences should provide a lower bound of most other countries.

We combine, for the first time, three large databases: contract-level data on procurement performance in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS); bureau-level data from a survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management since 2002 on federal employees, the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS); and Federal Workforce Data (FedScope) containing information on characteristics of the public workforce at the employee level.

To quantify the extent to which the government-bureau-level competencies determine procurement outcomes, we use the first database to construct procurement performance measures and the second dataset to build measures of procurement offices’ competence. We then use the third database to construct instruments that help us addressing important endogeneity issues. Our identification strategy exploits the exogeneity of death events involving public officials to allow for a causal interpretation of bureau competence on procurement performance.

Measurement Challenges

Indeed, there are three main challenges that our analysis needs to overcome. The first is how to measure procurement performance. Unit price comparisons have been used for standardized goods, but they are not suitable for the more complex procurements we focus on as they are heterogeneous in many non-recorded dimensions and their contracts are often incomplete. We use FPDS instead to construct three proxies of performance based on time delays, cost overruns, and the number of renegotiations. Although the first two measures are widely used in the literature, we are careful to take into account that cost overruns and delays may be due to new or additional work requested by the public buyer, in which case they should not be viewed as indicative of a poor outcome. We, therefore, consider only those which have occurred to deliver the work or service that was originally tendered. The third performance measure, the overall number of renegotiation episodes, is new and aims at capturing Williamson’s “haggling costs,” which are a pure deadweight loss present whatever the reason behind the renegotiation and have been shown to be economically sizeable for complex contracts. Our data reveals a surprising and persistent heterogeneity along these three dimensions across US federal bureaus.

The second challenge is the measurement of bureaucratic competence. Other papers in the field have measured it using buyer fixed effects. We use a novel approach based on the mentioned survey of employees’ subjective evaluations (FEVS). The survey is extremely rich, and we chose the most general question as an overall measure for competence (How would you rate the overall quality of work done by your work unit?). Responses to this question should be seen as measures of the overall efficacy of the workflow and processes within the bureau, hence proxying for the ideal measure of competence on the many different aspects relevant to procurement. An extensive set of robustness checks support our idea of measuring competence through the FEVS data.

The third measurement problem is the association between more complex contracts and more competent buyers: the most competent buyers may consistently produce poor performance because they are allocated the most complicated procurements. This point is well illustrated in a case study showing that the performance of the agencies that are worst in terms of competence (the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Justice) is superior to that of the two most competent agencies (the NASA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) in terms of both delays and cost overruns. This striking inversion indicates that any straightforward regression of performance on competence would grossly underestimate the impact of competence.

We, therefore, develop an instrumental variable strategy exploiting exogenous changes in competence. We use FedScope to build instruments for bureaus’ competence based on the deaths of specific types of employees: bureau managers and white-collar employees who are relatively young and earn a relatively high wage. The idea is that more competent offices adopt better managerial practices, routines and processes that are more resilient to risks, such that of an unexpected loss of a key employee, and less dependent on specific individuals. This is precisely what the first stage of our IV strategy documents. Our instruments perform well in terms of their statistical properties and they allow us to estimate a causal effect of bureau competence on procurement outcomes that is an order of magnitude larger than the corresponding OLS estimate.


We find that one standard deviation increase in competence reduces the number of days of delay by 23 percent, cost overruns by 29 percent and the number of renegotiations by half. This implies that if all federal bureaus were to obtain NASA’s high level of competence – corresponding to the top 10th percentile of the competence distribution – delays in contract execution would decline by 4.8 million days, and cost overrun would drop by $6.7 billions over the entire sample analyzed. We also find a consistently negative effect of greater competence on the number of renegotiations: one standard deviation increase in competence causes 0.5 (39%) and 0.8 (71%) fewer cost renegotiations and time renegotiations, respectively.

Finally, we try to understand what exactly makes a bureau ‘competent’ using the FEVS data to identify three different components: cooperation among employees, incentives and skills. Separately estimating their causal effects is unfeasible with instruments like the two described above as the validity of the exclusion restriction, which can be argued to be satisfied when measuring a broadly defined notion of bureau competence, is unlikely to hold for more specific components. However, we provide multiple pieces of evidence suggestive that cooperation is the key driver behind the positive effects of bureau competence. This finding conforms with the view that successful procurement requires appropriate coordination of a multiplicity of tasks involving different individuals. We also consider the extent to which the role of cooperation is due to the presence of capable managers, able to lead a group to effective cooperation, exploiting the heterogenous effects obtained through instruments considering the deaths of different subgroups of employees. We find that the deaths that matter the most are those of relatively young and best paid white-collar employees.

These results point at the large potential improvement in the performance of public contracts that could be achieved by investing more resources in increasing the competence of contracting authorities, even in a country with long-established procurement training and certification institutions such as the US. In Europe, recent policy initiatives see the introduction of qualification systems for public procurers as a necessary response to the generally lower procurement competence coupled with the greater discretion granted by the 2014 Procurement Directives. Our results on the role of cooperation suggest that certification programs would be also useful at the level of the procuring office, and should include features such as the organisation of the acquisition process and the prevailing management practices, as is often done for private firms.


[1] See also, Bucciol et al (2017) who study procurement of standardized medical devices purchased by local Italian purchasing bodies, finding that the price for the same medical devices paid by Italian public buyers differ substantially, and that the differences are explained by ‘buyers fixed effects’ capturing all specific buyers characteristics, including their competence levels.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Natural Resources, Intangible Capital and Sustainable Development in a Small, Oil-Rich Region

20121203 Natural Resources, Intangible Capital and Sustainable Development Image 01

“Where scientific enquiry is stunted, the intellectual life of a nation dries up, which means the withering of many possibilities of future development.” – Albert Einstein, 1934 The rampant unemployment rates and the general contraction of economic activity in many western countries rekindled the fear of emigration and brain drain, which for a while seemed to be exclusively a developing-world problem. This brief illustrates a potential new approach to the issue, through a recent experience in a small but oil-rich region of Southern Italy. 

Economic Growth and Brain Drain

Since the times of Solow, economic theory represents growth as the result of a process not unlike some sort of portfolio management. Just like any individual investor, countries own and need to manage certain assets, characterized by different properties and returns: some are exhaustible, others are renewable or living, and ensure a sustained stream of income.  In the original formulations, the economy’s productive assets were identified in land, capital and labor, to which human capital was soon added. In 2006, the World Bank published estimates of 120 countries’ total wealth, in an attempt to introduce a broader view of what these assets really are [1]. The report classified a country’s capital into three main types: natural, produced (physical) and intangible. A striking pattern emerged. While the share of produced assets in total wealth is virtually constant across income groups of countries, the share of natural capital tends to fall with income, and the share of intangible capital rises. This means that rich countries are largely rich because of the skills of their populations and the quality of the institutions supporting economic activity.

There is an important relation between the different types of assets. In order to avoid illusory and temporary growth based on consuming the readily available natural capital, efficient management through saving and investment can transform one type of asset into another, achieving sustainability over time. Although this may sound as no big news, the analysis of the actual savings and rates of growth in the different form of capital reveals far from ideal situations all over the world. In many resource-rich developing countries, savings rates have been negative for many decades, meaning that resource rents have been at best used for consumption. In the worst cases, they have fueled corruption and private enrichment of small elites, as highlighted by the extensive literature on the “resource curse”.

Also, renewable natural resources are often exploited in an unsustainable fashion. One case in point is the thorny issue of fish stocks, but many more examples are discussed in the literature on ecosystem services. Even the intangible capital is under stress in many places. In the wording of the 2006 World Bank report, “intangible assets include the skills and know-how embodied in the labor force; social capital, that is, the trust among people in a society and their ability to work together for a common purpose; all those governance elements that boost the productivity of labor: an efficient judicial system, clear property rights, and an effective government.” Probably the first component in the list, what is traditionally indicated with the term human capital, is the most tangible, observable and relatively controllable part of it.

Controlling the Brain Drain?

Although there are many arguments in favor of international careers and general workforce mobility,[2] some regions experienced negative and prolonged net outflows – emigrants minus immigrants – to the extent that they now face a real risk of hold ups in their economic development. This, due to shortages of vitally needed high-skilled personnel. Even the economic sustainability of many basic services and businesses is in doubt due to the shrinking customer base.

Southern Italy is one of these regions. The net outflow of people with a bachelor or higher degree is negative[3] even at the national level,   -2% over the latest ten years. In southern Italy, with a population of just above 13 million, the net balance of emigrants and immigrants over the same period amounts to -630,000. 70% of these people are aged between 15 and 34, and 25% hold at least a bachelor degree. To this figure, which is based on changes in official residence and therefore grossly underestimates the real size of the phenomenon, must be added the 150,000 that on average every year join the flow of internal migrants or long-distance commuters from the south to Northern Italy. Among these people, 47% are aged between 15 and 34, and almost 30% hold a bachelor or higher degree. The reason for these massive outflows can be identified in the labor market dynamics. If we break down the average 22% decline in job creation for youth between 2008 and 2011, new hires declined by 30% for youth with a bachelor degree and 14% for higher degrees, against 11% decline for youth with only secondary education.[4]

As opposed to physical capital, recent research shows that loss of human capital can have long lasting crippling consequences for economic growth (Waldinger, 2012). Among the policies that have been tried in order to stop or counterbalance the brain drain, a first set targets human capital as embodied in the workforce, i.e. tries to attract highly trained people. Probably the most popular are economic incentives in the form of tax rebates, higher wages or other job-related benefits and amenities. This kind of incentive regime exists in Italy since December 2010, though only targeting Italian nationals. However, for many high-skilled professionals, the important factors are others, such as a generally innovative and creative environment, a network with a critical mass, a transparent and competitive labor market not contaminated by politics, high quality support services, and other conditions that are not as easy and cheap to modify. Some countries have played the card of instead attracting prestigious foreign schools to their national territory to prevent their brilliant youth from leaving in the first place. Many famous western universities have already initiated partnerships with or lent their names to schools and universities in these countries and even built replicas of themselves – mostly in Asia – so as to get a toehold in the world’s largest education market, or in the Gulf States, where financial resources abound. There are successful examples of such partnerships in Italy, too.

A different approach has been taken by the new government, with the realization that the country can benefit from the pool of expatriated talents without moving them permanently back. A program of facilitation for visiting scholars and exchange students was thus launched in September 2012. But a step even further is actually possible. A network of scholars and high-skilled professionals that want to contribute to the development of a particular country or region, for example their place of origin, does not require physical presence on the territory, and not even any formal or institutional bond. The only needed ingredient is the Internet. Not removed from the environment and the conditions where they achieved success, these people can actually contribute even more. This is the idea behind, for example, Innovitalia.net and other smaller independent initiatives inspired by the concept of crowd-sourcing.[5]

The Experience of Basilicata

I recently witnessed (what I hope is) the birth of one such network in the region where I am from. Basilicata, also known as Lucania, is a small, poor region of less than 600,000 inhabitants scattered across 131 different municipalities on a territory of barely 10,000 squared kilometers, between the heel and the toe of the boot that the Italian peninsula resembles. Here, the crisis hit especially hard and migration outflows are since then even stronger, especially among youths.  According to SVIMEZ (a think tank focused on entrepreneurship and economic activity in Southern Italy), Basilicata has lost 10% of its regional GDP since 2007, much more than the national average of -4.6%. Compared to other large European economies, Spain is currently at -2.7, while Germany and France, notwithstanding the low annual growth rates, are now back at the same level as in 2007. The youth employment rate (with the generous definition of 15-34) is alarmingly low at 30%, down by 15% since 2007, and only 24% for women. As a result, the consumption level of 27.5% of families is now below the poverty threshold, compared with 11% of families at the country level.[6]

Enter Europe’s largest onshore oil and gas reservoir; about 150,000 oil barrels are extracted in Basilicata every day, covering 12% of the national oil demand. The exploitation started in the late 1990s, although the reservoir has been known since at least the 1970s. It is expected that these oil fields will be operational until 2022, but at least one more reservoir with about the same estimated capacity remains unexploited. The regional government has for the time being blocked any new concession, hoping perhaps to negotiate better conditions. The truth is, there have been strong concerns – related to lack of transparency and in some cases to alleged corruption – voiced at the actual quantities of extracted oil and what is a fair distribution of revenues. After more than 10 years, it is hard to claim any major social impact of the project:  there is a clear lack of funds to invest in local small and medium size businesses and, as observed above, unemployment in the area remains a problem while the regional population has plummeted.

Is this a case of “resource curse”? Not really. There is no clear evidence of corruption, or elite capture – the problem seems to be mostly poor management and a lack of ideas, mixed with the deeply rooted penchant of local politics for populism and the clientela system (patronage). To give an idea, creativity in using the oil money did not go much beyond the restoration of many of the small town’s pavements and facades. In 2009, in line with the so called “Development Action Plan” of the Berlusconi government, an 80 euro lump sum was distributed to all residents. After the crisis hit harder, the royalties have also been used to cover holes here and there in the current account. Data from the Ministry for Economic Development shows that capital investment in the region went down by 8.5% per year between 2008 and 2011, while current expenditure went up by 3%. Going back to the importance from the growth perspective of savings and investment versus consumption, it is worth remarking that current expenditure is (in most part) consumption.

Can this bounty instead become an answer to Basilicata’s troubles? This was the question driving the first Sustainable Development School, held at the end of October in Viggiano, a small town in the center of the oil field, hosting 23 oil wells. Sponsored by a number of institutions and associations, local or national,[7] the event attracted a group of 45 economists, sociologists, managers and entrepreneurs, engineers and culture sector specialists, in most part born in Basilicata and working or studying abroad. Seven of these participants were instead citizens of various countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, working or studying in Basilicata. This heterogeneous group worked together for two days on concrete proposals to be put on the administrator’s tables, in five main areas: Regional Economy in the new Euro-Mediterranean context, Energy and natural resources, Environmental protection, Infrastructure for environmental protection, Promotion of the historical, cultural and social heritage. Given the context, most projects focused on alternative proposals for how to use the royalties. The keyword was, however, sustainability. Everybody was well aware of the fact that for them to last longer than oil itself, these resources must be saved and earmarked to some productive use that, leveraging on other locally abundant resources, can start off a process of self-sustained development. The projects highlighted the stimulation of local small-scale entrepreneurship and the creation of employment opportunities as necessary ingredients for a fairer sharing of the revenues but most importantly for long-term sustainability.

Many local resources, not fully utilized at present, were brought in as examples: the abundant wood, the underexploited waterways, even the wastewater from bigger agricultural and animal farms, connected to the potential for small-scale generation of energy from renewable sources. On a slightly different note, the list continued with the historical and cultural heritage, natural beauty and the religious and culinary traditions that could support a much more developed tourism industry than what it does today. All of this, in the proposals of the participants, has the potential to support profitable businesses that bring employment to the community. This ingredient is considered crucial, in the perspective that the long-term survival of any (business) initiative requires tying its success to the welfare of the local communities. The focus was thus overwhelmingly on private initiative, with the public confined to the role of investing partner and provider of supportive infrastructure (material and immaterial) and services.

Overarching is undeniably the question of institutional quality, needed as the underlying canvas to support whatever initiative we hope to see blooming.  A proposal that did not make it to the finals, though, involved the creation of a stable watchdog, either on local policies in general (and in particular on the use of the royalties) or more specifically focused on the environmental and health impact of the extractive activity. According to the more politically experienced participants, no administration would agree to finance an independent body with the explicit mandate to criticize them. Never mind that this type of institutions is common in other places. In Italy, the one body that currently operates with a watchdog function on the public administration, although limited to the financial aspect,[8] is facing threats of limitations of its powers. A lot remains to be learned. However, the perhaps most valuable outcome of this experience was, if not yet policy change at least a promising method to produce change, by mobilizing a latent ‘local’ resource and really transform oil rents in durable intangible capital.


  • Where Is the Wealth of Nations? Measuring Capital for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2006
  • The brain drain in Spain is mainly to Spain’s gain, The Economist, April 2012
  • The Inclusive Wealth Report 2012, Cambridge University Press, 2012
  • Rapporto sull’economia del Mezzogiorno, SVIMEZ, 2012
  • Peer effects in science: evidence from the dismissal of scientists in Nazi Germany, Waldinger, F., The Review of Economic Studies, 2012

[1] Updates on these figures for a subset of 20 countries can be found in the newly released Inclusive Wealth Report 2012 , sponsored by a number of UN agencies, the first of what is intended to be an annual report looking at a broad measure of wealth. From the report: “Wealth is the social worth of an economy’s assets: reproducible capital; human capital; knowledge; natural capital; population; institutions; and time.”

[2] The Economist recently pointed out that “[w]hat some call “brain-drain” may in fact be a win-win situation for Europe’s economies. […I]n the short run, migration takes away pressure from budgets as the unemployed don’t claim benefits but move [abroad] instead. In the long run, there is a pool of highly skilled workers who have not fallen victim to hysteresis effects and can be re-activated for the [home] economy once the crisis is over.”  However, it is not at all obvious that this migration is short-run, i.e. that these high-skilled workers will eventually go back. A survey of Italian scientists working aboard reveals, for instance, that the overwhelming majority excludes ever going back to Italy.

[3] The “import” of such people generally more than compensates the “export” in other big European countries.

[4] Source: SVIMEZ, 2012.

[5] A recent paper analyzing the experience of New Zealand (Davenport, 2040) reviews the waves of brain-drain response policies and calls this latest generation diaspora policies: “Diaspora policies are based on an assumption that many expatriates are not likely to return, at least in the short term, but represent a significant resource wherever they are located. This resource is not just embodied in the individual expatriate but also potentially includes their socio-professional networks. A key advantage of any diaspora option is that such connectivity initiatives do not require a large infrastructural investment in order to potentially mobilize this latent ‘national’ resource.”

[6] Source: ISTAT.

[7] Sponsors and partners included the municipal and regional administration, the Italian Institute for Asia and Mediterranean (ISIAMED) and its local branch, CeBasMed, the Val d’Agri National Park, the Regional Environmental Protection Agency, SVIMEZ and the University of Basilicata.

[8] The Corte dei Conti tribunal.