The reform of the chamber system: defining the roles and autonomy for the institutional interlocutors of businesses on the territory

10 march 2016

Modernisation and rationalisation are the principles behind the reform of the Public Administration in the last few months, that also concerns the chamber system. After the regulatory intervention that for the 2015-2017 three-year period reduces the annual fee for enterprises, a Government decree is expected in the coming weeks. Aside from resources, duties and functions of the new Chambers of commerce will be redefined.


It was expected back in January, with the 11 implementing decrees approved by the Government, the text that defines the plan for the comprehensive restructuring of the chamber system, however, its presentation was delayed to a date as yet to be decided. In 2014, a first relevant provision was adopted with regard to the financing system of the Chambers of commerce, determining that the annual fee for enterprises be reduced by 35% in 2015, by 40% in 2016 and by 50% as from 2017. The provision itself also states that the rates and proceeds arising from the annual fee (resulting from business management and provision of services, pecuniary gains, administrative fees) should be fixed on the basis of standard costs established according to efficiency criteria to be attained also via the integration of bodies and authorities of the chamber system and the performance of the functions in an associated form [1].

The principle of the incorporation of the bodies used to transpose the concept of metropolitan area introduced by the Delrio law, that redesigned the institutional architecture of local self-governments, basing it only on Regions and Municipalities. And thus, Chambers of commerce, functional local self-governments up until now organised at the provincial level, have also been called upon to reason and operate in future as per the metropolitan area logic. According to the law, the chamber system has launched a self-reform path that, from autumn 2014 to date, has resulted in the institution of 12 new Chambers stemming from the incorporation of 28 bodies, contextually removed, with a net reduction in the number of Chambers (from 105 to 89).

In the meantime, the legislator intervened again in 2015 [2] , delegating the Government to endorse a legislative decree for the reform of the organisation, functions and financing of the Chambers of commerce. In the enabling law are determined a number of directive principles and criteria with which the decree must comply. In particular, the decrease in resources and number of territorial constituencies is reiterated, from the current 105 to no more than 60 via the incorporation of one or more bodies, with the possibility of not incorporating the single Chamber only beyond a minimum threshold of 75,000 companies registered in the Register of Companies.

Furthermore, the redefinition of duties and functions of the chamber system provides for the fostering of territory and local economy, as well as the allocation of specific competences, also delegated by the State and the Regions. The general aim is to remove any duplication with other public administrations, restricting company shareholdings to the bare minimum required for the performance of the institutional functions. The authority responsible for defining and supervising the national quality standards relating to the performance of the Chambers of commerce will be the Ministry of Economic Development. Moreover, an intervention for the reform of the chamber system governance is provided for, with a drop in the number of councils and committees and the restructuring of the relative discipline, of regional unions, special undertakings and subsidiaries.

While awaiting the decree implementing the law, in the meantime it is possible to appraise the first year of operation following the decrease in the annual fee for enterprises. The data on the financial flows emphasise that the current receivables of chamber bodies are in constant decline in the 2013-2015 three-year period, falling from 1.4 billion EUR in 2012 to 1 billion EUR in 2015, -21% only in the last year. Specifically, the resources deriving from the annual fee, which prior to the legislative intervention represented over 60% of the current revenues, fall from 820 million EUR in 2014 to 570 million EUR in 2015 (-30%). To the decreased financing associated with the annual fee is added the fall in other salient revenue components: the administrative fees and, above all, the contributions and current transfers, that in the 2013-2014 two-year period dropped on average by 15%, aggravating the budget of the chamber system.

Thus, which are the repercussions of the cutbacks in resources on the expenditure policies of the Chambers of commerce? The data pertaining to payments show that in the three-year period considered, current expenditure decreased by 300 million EUR (from 1.3 to 1 billion EUR), of which 200 million EUR only in 2015 (-16%). One of the most disadvantaged expenditure categories is the purchase of goods and services, suffering a drop by 12% on average. In particular, this decline has affected the expenses for training and promotion activities (such as the organisation of events and conventions) and those for market studies, surveys and research, which at the end of the period are reduced by one third (from 6 to 2 million EUR): Nevertheless, the greatest contribution to the spending review is provided by the contributions and current transfers, registering a 29% decrease in 2015. As more than one third of these is applicable to undertakings (-33%) and almost one fifth to special undertakings (-30%), the economic interventions of the Chambers of commerce on the territory are especially penalised.

The analysis of the preliminary data underscores that reducing the financial resources for the chamber system significantly impacts the latter's ability to sustain local economies. The reform will need to clarify the future role of the Chambers of commerce in terms of fostering and development of businesses and territories.

Fig. 1 - Current revenues of Camere di commercio (Chambers of Commerce) (% change)
Fig. 2 - Current expenditure of Camere di commercio (Chambers of Commerce) (% change)
Source: Prometeia processing of Siope data.

[1] Law No. 114 of 11 August 2014, art. 28.

[2] Law No. 124 of 07 August 2015, art. 10.


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