Italian oddities

The Italian economy continues to lag behind in comparison with the other eurozone economies, and has long been in need of deregulation and liberalisation. However, before reading this piece in the Economist, I didn’t quite realise how utterly bizarre some of the hurtful regulations were. A quote, concerning some of the things the left of centre government is improving on:

Big commercial outlets may now get the right to sell petrol, while existing petrol stations may finally be allowed to stay open around the clock. Some particularly petty rules, such as government regulation of the number and location of tobacconists, or a ban on insurance agents marketing the products of more than one insurer, may now be scrapped.

Most importantly perhaps, Mr Bersani would scrap the rules setting a minimum distance between rival businesses that limit competition in much of the retail sector. Such restrictions apply to cinemas, news-stands, beauty parlours, hairdressing salons and even driving schools.

Italy obviously has quite a long way to go, and as usual there doesn’t seem to be enough support to do anything about the bigger obstacles. But at least, in years to come, one won’t have to bring a yardstick to find out if it’s okay to open a news-stand on the corner.

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