The region of Molise, one of Italy’s smallest, plans to introduce a grant for people who open businesses in its least populated towns and villages. Dubbed reddito di residenza attiva (active residency allowance), the stipend could be worth €700 a month (currently $775) for up to three years or the equivalent of €24,000 in total.
There are just two conditions: applicants must agree to run a business, any business, for at least five years and they have to do so in villages that have less than 2,000 inhabitants. Believe it or not, that still leaves plenty of choices. Of the 136 towns and villages in Molise (Italy’s second smallest region in both population and size), more than 100 have fewer than 2,000 people living in them. In fact, six tiny hamlets have fewer than 200 residents.
The incentive plan, to be launched this month, is designed to combat depopulation, a chronic problem throughout rural Italy, especially in poorer southern regions.
“We’re targeting the many people from Molise who live elsewhere and plan to come back home, but also non-Molisans who’d like a change of lifestyle and to enjoy the tranquility and healthiness of our wonderful region,” said Antonio Tedeschi, the regional councilor responsible for the idea.
The region has set aside nearly €1 million to fund the plan for the upcoming 12 month period. Applications opened on the region’s website last week and will remain open until November 15. Candidates for the incentive plan must commit to transferring their residence to Molise, obtaining a VAT number and running their business for at least five years, two years after they stop receiving the stipend or face the burden of paying back the grant.
Many parts of rural Italy have experimented with incentives to attract new residents, from the well-known ‘€1 house’ plans instituted by numerous towns, to tax breaks for retirees bringing foreign pensions with them to Italy.
While many such offers attract people looking for vacation homes or a place to retire, the ‘active residency allowance’ seeks to create longer-term benefits for the local economy by improving the services and employment opportunities available.
Some argue that the businesses do not have much chance of survival over a five year period, while others have voiced opposition to providing the stimulus to outsiders rather than those in Molise who have remained as residents. Still others argue that it is a spot solution, rather than an overall plan for the region. Regardless of the detractors, applications have been briskly received. Whether for a bakery or restaurant; a marketing services company or an accountant, the new plan has garnered a lot of attention, not just in Molise, but around the world.