Italian PM Letta wins first leg of confidence vote

Italian PM Letta wins first leg of confidence vote
# 11 December 2013 19:51 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta won a confidence vote in parliament's lower chamber on Wednesday after urging lawmakers to back his government or risk chaos, APA reports quoting Reuters

Opening a debate before his third confidence vote since October, he said Italy had avoided reforms for 20 years and could no longer afford to delay, with protests across the country this week underlining the bitter public mood after years of painful attempts to squeeze costs and boost revenues.

"I will do everything I can. I won't give in to those who say the chaos is too much and we can't do anything," he said, pledging to combat a growing tide of political disillusion and hostility to the European Union.

The lower house, dominated by Letta's center-left Democratic Party (PD), passed the confidence motion as expected. The coalition is also expected to win in the upper house, with the help of Interior Minister Angelino Alfano's New Centre Right and a smaller centrist group.

Letta pledged to fight "like a lion" but the problems he faces include youth unemployment running at more than 40 percent. The economy is now smaller than it was more than a decade ago and obstacles range from rampant corruption and a discredited political system to a level of tax evasion which the head of Italy's tax authority said this week was incompatible with a democratic state.

As Letta spoke, police had shut down parts of Rome with hundreds of protesters gathering near parliament, shouting "Thieves! Thieves!".

He said the next 18 months would be devoted to a broad package of institutional reforms aimed at creating a stable basis for economic growth which he said should reach 1 percent in 2014 and 2 percent in 2015.

As well as a new electoral law and measures to untangle the conflicting web of powers between different levels of the administration, he promised to overhaul parliament to remove the Senate's power to vote no confidence in the government.

The upper house would become a review chamber linked to the regions instead of an exact counterweight to the lower house, removing a major cause of stalemate in Italy's political system.

On the economic front, he gave little detail but promised to cut Italy's public debt, the second highest in the euro zone as a proportion of the overall economy. In addition, he would lower taxes on families and companies, reduce unemployment and boost public investment, with a package of measures to attract foreign investment due to be approved by cabinet on Friday.

Many of these goals echoed those made when he took office in the spring, but so far a quarrelsome ruling coalition has hindered progress.

He promised privatizations and said the government would consider allowing employees to buy shares in the postal service and other public companies.

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