Italy business lobby warns on industry decline

ROME Wed Jun 4, 2014 1:23pm EDT

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's main business lobby group Confindustria warned on Wednesday that the country had suffered an "unparalleled" decline in its manufacturing capacity during the financial crisis and called for decisive backing for industry.

Confindustria President Giorgio Squinzi said Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government had to adopt a "pro-industry, pro-company" approach to policy making and added that he was encouraged by what he had seen from the administration so far.

"I have been very pleased to see that the prime minister, in more than one public statement has underlined the importance of industry for our economy," he said at a presentation of the latest report from Confindustria's CSC research body.

Renzi is pushing for a change in focus in European policy making away from the budget austerity adopted at the height of the eurozone debt crisis towards more expansive, policies to stimulate investment, jobs and economic growth.

The CSC report said Italy had slipped from fifth to eighth place in the list of industrialized nations behind China, the United States, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Brazil and India.

"In itself, eighth place isn't bad, given that in terms of population, we're in 23rd place but we could have done much better," said CSC director Luca Paolazzi.

He noted that since 2000, global industrial output had risen by 36 percent, while in the same period in Italy, it had declined by 25.5 percent in constant price terms.

Since the start of the crisis in 2007, Italian industrial output had declined by an average of 5 percent a year, which he called "an unparalleled figure" with overall manufacturing capacity down by 15 percent.

Italy, still the second-largest industrial nation in the euro zone behind Germany, has dipped in and out of recession since 2008 and its economy is now slightly below its level in 2000 according to national statistics office ISTAT.

According to Confindustria, Italian industry has lost around 120,000 companies and some 1.2 million workers since 2001.

(Reporting by Antonella Cinelli; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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