Berlusconi to call Monday cabinet meeting on growth

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2011 5:34 PM
Berlusconi to call Monday cabinet meeting on growth

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he expected to call a cabinet meeting on Monday to discuss measures to boost growth, as Italy comes under mounting pressure from European partners to step up reforms to restore market confidence.

"I'm thinking of calling a cabinet meeting on growth tomorrow," he told reporters in Brussels.

"I want to take advantage of this situation to see if we can push through measures that I have always thought of but haven't been able to accomplish because of differences within the coalition majority -- for example, on pensions. Mainly on pensions."

He said he would try to persuade allies to back pension reform, an issue that became a sticking point with his Northern League coalition partner earlier this year. The League, on whom Berlusconi relies for survival in parliament, has opposed efforts to raise the retirement age for women.

His comments came after EU leaders pressed Italy to speed up economic reforms to avoid a Greek-style debt meltdown, urging it to provide a timeline and concrete measures on privatization and labor market reform, among other areas.

After dodging the worst of the financial crisis and economic troubles roiling Europe in the last few years, Italy has moved to the center of eurozone debt crisis in recent months with bond yields soaring.

Investors are worried about the sustainability of Italy's 1.9 trillion-euro ($2.6 trillion) debt pile and its chronically sluggish growth, and fear a weak government riven by infighting and scandal will fail to push through reforms.

Berlusconi, distracted in recent months by sex scandals and legal headaches, reiterated that Italy would balance its budget by 2013 and start cutting its debt that year or sooner by putting state properties on the market.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, writing by Deepa Babington; editing by Andrew Roche)