Italy Cabinet to clear structural reforms Monday

AP News
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Posted: Nov 30, 2011 1:42 PM
Italy Cabinet to clear structural reforms Monday

Italy's Cabinet on Monday will approve a plan to reduce the country's debt and stimulate economic growth, Premier Mario Monti said Wednesday.

Monti, speaking to reporters in Brussels, said he will give details of the package of austerity and growth measures after Cabinet approval.

He urged unions and lawmakers to act responsibly and quickly in considering contested reforms to Italy's bloated pension system, saying: "If Italy misses this, or does less than what is expected, the consequences will be very serious for all."

The new Italian premier is under tremendous pressure to push reforms through Parliament to rein in Italy's euro1.9 trillion ($2.6 trillion) in debt load, which is 20 percent larger than its annual economic output. The country, which is the eurozone's third-largest economy, is considered to be too big to be bailed out.

An Italian default would create devastating consequences for the eurozone, and send shock waves throughout the global economy.

Monti was named premier earlier this month after international markets lost confidence in the ability of the government of Silvio Berlusconi to push through reforms. Monti said he had confirmed to EU officials Italy's commitment to balance the budget by 2013.

Italy's lower chamber of Parliament on Wednesday approved legislation requiring a balanced budget. It was the first step of a monthslong legislative process before a balanced budget requirement is enshrined in the nation's constitution.

Monti said the Cabinet would adopt a set of "vast political-economic" measures that would ensure the pledges made by the Berlusconi government are effectively implemented.

Steps to boost the economy include reviving a property tax for homeowners, revamping the pension system, simplifying bureaucracy and selling off state assets.

On the broader eurozone, Monti voiced support for French and German calls for more coordination on fiscal policy, including rules that penalize countries that fail to bring their budgets in line with eurozone requirements.

Many European countries oppose such changes to the EU treaty.