The so called "planning contracts" constitute the first experiment in Italy of a policy measure substituting command with negotiation and administrative acts with bilateral obligations. They were adopted by the Italian Government in 1986 to promote industrial development in the South. Subsequently, in 1996, they became part of the new policy for the South, the so called "Programmazione Negoziata" (Negotiated Planning). In this paper we attempt an evaluation of the ongoing experience. We consider two aspects: a) a full and detailed picture of the planning contracts as they stood in July 2000; b) the behaviour of the firms throughout four case-studies. The combined analysis of these two aspects suggest that planning contracts are drifting away from their originary developments' goals. In the last sections, we discuss some measures to relaunch them, intervening both on agents' and policy makers' behaviour.