Gallitelli, Secretary General of Assopetroli: “Investments are frozen and simplification is urgently needed”
The entire sector has posted significant signs of recession but no specific measures have been introduced. Petrol and diesel for the automotive sector have suffered the worst losses
Interview with SEBASTIANO GALLITELLI, Secretary General of Assopetroli-Assoenergia
The fuel sector and its distribution network have suffered from major impacts caused by the coronavirus crisis, especially as regards petrol and diesel for motor vehicles. Sebastiano Gallitelli, the new Secretary General of Assopetroli Assoenergia, highlights the serious difficulties the sector is encountering, while also denouncing insufficient recovery measures. “Even in the midst of the pandemic, the fuel distribution chain never stopped providing – with a sense of responsibility – an essential service for the continuity of the Italian production system. The fall in turnover caused by the Covid crisis, set against unchanged costs, has severely stressed the financial leverage of companies, thereby compromising sustainability in the medium term. Business support measures developed by the government with the Liquidity and Restart Decrees only gave companies a little breathing space by deferring or postponing certain fiscal overheads. In relation to other aspects, the effects have been disappointing, so much so that SMEs have not even been able to benefit from credit facilities guaranteed by the state. The delay in adopting and implementing measures and the excessive level of obligations have in fact weakened the effectiveness of these measures, whereby they are only accessible to a limited number of companies,” Gallitelli explains.
“In an already critical context, the fuel distribution sector was ignored: no specific measures nor any simple precautions were taken that might have made a difference. One example stands above all: not allowing sector companies to calculate their revenues net of VAT and excise duties (which are included in revenues but entirely paid to the State) meant that they were excluded from support measures. As regards the figures defining this crisis, as of the first ten days of March, the entire sector has posted significant signs of recession. Petrol and diesel for the automotive sector have suffered the worst losses. On the other hand, sales of heating and agricultural diesel fuel went against the trend but by no means offset problems in the automotive sector. The first half-year report highlight a straight loss of around € 5 billion in turnover,” said the new Secretary General of Assopetroli.
Gallitelli then analysed the specific features of a number of measures, such as the Das Telematico, which risk burdening SMEs in the sector with even more pressure. “Our Association has always been in the forefront of the fight against illegality. A number of tools have been introduced in recent years, thanks not the least to our own commitment. Electronic invoicing, electronic storage and transmission of payment and the digital loading-unloading register are just some examples. Among these various measures, Das Telematico plays a key role in the fight against fraud in the fuel sector, since it means we can trace the ‘life’ of the product. This is why we are in favour of its rapid implementation,” said the Secretary General.
“However, we cannot ignore the difficulties caused by Covid which – for our SMEs – are not only of an economic-financial nature but also – and above all – organisational,” he added. “Moreover, just two months from its launch, there are still problems to be resolved and doubts in operational terms. In the light of the effective difficulties the sector is facing, we appreciated the effort to defer the obligation to 1 October 2020. Yet this is still not enough. A progressive introduction of compliance, at least for the first quarter of its implementation, is the only sustainable and common sense option,” the Secretary General of the Association pointed out.
Lastly, Gallitelli focused on the downturn in consumption and investments, while also observing that sales have begun to recover over the last month: “In June, sales began to improve again, in network and non-network sectors alike, compared to the previous quarter. Initial data for July also seem to confirm this positive trend. However, June closed with a two-figure loss. The crisis in the first half-year caused a freeze in investments for low carbon transformation of the sector. This signal, for example, comes from the world of LNG, which has slowed down its growth rate.”
As regards prospects, Gallitelli hopes to see more incisive measures, above all to cut red tape: “In addition to consumption returning to pre-crisis levels, we hope in the near future to see a change of pace by the government and administration. Simplification measures are urgently needed in our sector. In general, we must highlight the strategic role of our infrastructure as a fundamental asset for energy transition and, as such, it must also be promoted within the Green New Deal,” he concluded.