Italy’s business lobby Confindustria said on Saturday the country’s growth this year would be more robust than expected, mainly due to a more contained impact of the COVID-19 Delta variant and stronger-than-expected economic indicators.

In a report, the association’s research unit CSC forecast gross domestic product (GDP) would rise 6.1 per cent this year and 4.1 per cent next year, going above pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2022.

In April the research unit had said Italy’s GDP would be up 4.1 per cent in 2021.

Its forecasts for this year are now just above the 6 per cent expected by the national unity government lead by Mario Draghi.

Last year the COVID-hit economy contracted by 8.9 per cent, the steepest recession in Italy’s post-war history. The firm pick-up now in place is seen resulting in lower-than-expected public deficit and debt ratios this year.

The CSC report cautioned that, starting from the last quarter of this year, GDP growth would have a more “moderate profile”.

It said that its estimates took into account Italy’s multi-billion euro recovery plan, partly funded by the European Union.

It added that, despite the “positive perspectives”, the forecasts had downside risks that were linked to the possibility of new COVID-19 restrictions, the lack of raw materials that could bog down production and more structural inflation.

Confindustria President Carlo Bonomi said that recovery was well underway but that it was important to “keep the guard up”.

“Italy must go back to growing at a yearly pace of at least 1.5-2 per cent, an achievable goal, equal to the annual growth registered between 1997 and 2007,” he said.