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Building back: the Italian government has gone to great lengths to rebuild Genoa’s economy, including the new San Giorgio bridge Indeed, Genoa’s SLZ stretches to the dry


ports of neighbouring Lombardy, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna. Thismeans the tax andadmin- istrative benefits will be available to any invest- ment that can demonstrate an economic link between these areas and Genoa’s port.


Opportunities in the north-east The strategic plan for Venice and nearby Rovigo’s SLZ is expected to be delivered to the government by spring 2021. Studies by Confindustria Venezia Rovigo, the local busi- ness association which is driving the project, estimate the SLZ couldmake use of 385 hectares of land, activate €2.4bn worth of investments and create 26,600 jobs within three years. To succeed, however, investors may have to


cast aside their preconceptions of the area. “Many people view Venice as a tourist city.


But outside of the historic centre, tourism actu- ally generates little for the economy,” says the association’s president Vincenzo Marinese. To his point, the area’s biggest 500 companies have a combined annual turnover of €35bn, 39% of which comes from exports. As with Genoa, sustainability will be a pillar


of Venice’s SLZ.“One of our priorities is to attract foreign investors into our green economy,” says Mr Marinese. “Even before the EU’s Green Deal, we were already strongly focused on environ- mentalremediationandreconversionof produc- tion processes.” For example, the area is hometo an Eni refinery which in 2014 became the world’s first to be converted into a biorefinery. Across the Adriatic, Trieste is conducting a


feasibility study to establish its own SLZ. A his- torical anomaly, Trieste’s free port was estab- lishedin the 1700swhenit fellunder theAustro- Hungarian Empire. This status continued when the territory was annexed to Italy in 1920, and it continues to offer customs exemptions and tax incentives today. But local councillors tell fDi that an SLZ could also stretch to dry ports throughout the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.


Piquing interest As a general rule, SLZs do not benefit from tax credits like SEZs do. This was a political deci- sion not only to encourage investment in the country’s south, but also to abide by EU state aid restrictions. However, if a SLZ includes areas on the EU regional aid list — as is the case for Genoa’s, Venice’s and Trieste’s — it can offer a 30% tax credit for investments by small firms, 20% for medium-sized firms and 10% for large firms.


These fiscal incentives are modest com-


pared to free zones in Poland, Bulgaria and fur- ther afield. But in a country notorious for bureaucracy, and which is the fifth-lowest EU state in the latest Ease of Doing Business rank- ings, the benefits of streamlined administrative procedures should not be snubbed. “A relevant problem facing industrial and


infrastructure projects in Italy is the time needed to obtain the necessary authorisations,” says Chiara Chiosi, a senior managing associate at CBA Law Firmwho advises on FDI. “This sim- plifies, and makes it easier for foreign investors to understand the procedure and timeline.” Ms Chiosi reports that foreign investors are


showing significant interest in SLZs, which is tipped to grow as the ports’ strategic plans are approved. The government is also giving clear signs that its initial focus on developing SEZs now extends to their peers in the north. “It has received additional support from the pandemic, as we now all understand how crucial logistic infrastructure is for supply chains and distribut- ing essential goods,” notes Ms Chiosi. Against this backdrop, it is thought that investments in ports and logistics — including via SLZs — will feature on the Italian government’s request for a slice of the EU’s €750bnCovid-19 Recovery Fund. It may still be early days, but it seems the


political will to help Genoa recover from the Morandi bridge collapse now extends to other SLZs. If so, 2021 could mark the beginning of a new era for the country’s ports. ■


December 2020/January 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com 81


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