Milan was on the frontline of the pandemic when Covid-19 first hit Europe earlier this year. Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan, reflects on the impact of the crisis and tells fDi about his plans for the city's green recovery.

Like other locations, the pandemic has had a major social and economic impact on Milan. Many firms have had to close or downsize, tourism has declined and unemployment has increased. As a result, Mr Sala says he fears unemployment in the city could double, from 6% to 12%. 

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“Before the emergency, the city enjoyed a positive period in all sectors, including fashion, design, art, culture, food, environment, innovation and entrepreneurship — and analysts expected real estate investment of around €12-13bn ($14.08-15.25bn) over the next 10 years. Today, I expect fewer investments and a more reflective phase from investors. But I firmly believe that the private sector will step up and that the environmental and digital transition will be our main asset for a truly green and deserved recovery for Milan,” he says.

The mayor and city authorities have implemented several strategies to drive recovery, including a mutual aid fund designed to support targeted employment interventions. “Part of the fund has also been allocated to sustaining educational service providers and associations, and small cultural enterprises, as well as to providing food and grocery vouchers and rent support to the most vulnerable citizens,” he says.

Mr Sala is keen to promote green initiatives to drive Milan’s recovery. “We aim to create the ‘15-minutes city’, where essential services can be reached within 15 minutes on foot or by bike. Thus, while work continues on extending the subway, we have offered incentives for the replacement of the most polluting vehicles and for the purchase of bicycles and eScooters,” he says. “We’re also encouraging sharing services, and we’ve created 35km of bike lanes and widened pavements. In this way, the pandemic has actually accelerated our environmental transition and opened up new opportunities for sustainable development and growth.”

The mayor adds that the city’s post-Covid recovery must be resilient and innovative. “The municipal administration of Milan has decided to provide €1m ($1.2m) to support innovations that offer useful and concrete solutions to relaunch the city after the health emergency. This initiative is part of the mutual aid fund and will help to create new businesses in many sectors, including health, digital services for citizens and businesses, and logistics systems.”

Mr Sala believes that social equity and environmental concerns must be the drivers for this recovery, locally as well as in the big cities of the world. “We’ve committed to doing our utmost for a green new normal, and are asking national governments, as well as also banks and international financial institutions, to help us promote sustainable and fair measures and policies in our cities and countries, to recover from the Covid-19 crisis,” he says.

“As mayors, our commitment is to doing everything in our power to support programmes for the creation of sustainable jobs, investment in the green sector and in transport, and adequate building requalification programmes.”

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This article first appeared in the October - November print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here