World Economy

Draghi vs. Renzi: Who’s helped Italy the most?

After a three-year recession, Italy's economy appears to be slowly getting on track and just clocked up two successive quarters of growth.

So who should Italians thank? Some fans point the finger at the youthful Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has toiled away to introduce unemployment reforms in the face of intransigent trade unions.

But Renzi's predecessor threw the laurel at another Italian toiling on behalf of Europe—the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi.

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CNBC asked Enrico Letta, prime minister of Italy between 2013 and 2014, for his take on what Renzi had achieved. But Letta—who founded the center-left Democratic Party now led by Renzi—chose to give no comment on his colleague's time at the helm, focusing on the achievements of Draghi and the ECB.

"I think we have to thank Mario Draghi because the ECB role was decisive," Letta told CNBC from the Amobrosetti Forum in Lake Como, Italy on Friday.

CNBC's Julia Chatterley tried to coax a comment on Renzi out of Letta, asking him: "You said we need to thank Mario Draghi; do we therefore also need to thank Matteo Renzi for energizing the reformist spirit?"

To which the resolute Letta replied: "I think until now the big result, the big achievement is due to the euro area actions and we have to continue in pushing both the euro area macroeconomic conditions and Mario Draghi and to push the government to continue in approving reforms and implementing reform."

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Earlier this year, the ECB launched a 1-trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) asset-purchase program to boost inflation and economic growth in the euro area. Draghi, speaking after an ECB meeting, cheered investors further on Thursday after promising more quantitative easing if needed.

Italy's government on Friday meanwhile added to its key labor market reforms, with the cabinet approving measures to make job centers more efficient and broaden unemployment benefits for the unemployed. In addition, Renzi's government has implemented electoral reform in the face of some opposition from within the Democratic Party.

Draghi is 'a master': Pro
Draghi is 'a master': Pro

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato and Julia Chatterley.