Italian budget set for fast-track approval
ITALY: Silvio Berlusconi’s austerity budget for Italy for the next
three years is on course to gain fast-track approval in parliament on
Friday, but the centre-left opposition is not letting up in its demands
that the billionaire prime minister resign immediately.
With Italy under intense pressure from the markets and Europe to act
quickly, opposition parties responded to pleas from Giorgio Napolitano,
head of state, to co-operate in approving the budget in record time.
However they made clear that the shortlived truce in parliament would be
over once the legislation clears the lower house.
Senators on Thursday voted 161 to 135 in favour of the austerity
package which is intended to eliminate Italy’s budget deficit by 2014 by
combining cuts and revenue-raising measures amounting to a total of
Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition has a slimmer majority in the
lower house but is expected to prevail in Friday’s vote, to be tabled as
a motion of confidence in the government.
“The crisis is moving through the world like a mutant that today has
the form of Greece,” Mr Tremonti told the Senate, reflecting views in
Italy that the storm buffeting Rome’s finances was due in large part to
the unresolved sovereign debt crisis in Athens.
The market crisis in the run-up to the vote bolstered Mr Tremonti
within a divided government, allowing him to reinforce the package,
including a commitment to privatise some government assets. In the
Senate committee, the total deficit-saving measures were increased from
an original €40bn.
Tremonti said the package also contained measures to promote growth,
addressing concerns over Italy’s ability to sustain its payments on
public debt — amounting this year to 120 per cent of GDP — while the
economy remains almost stagnant. CNN