News / Economy

New Italian PM Calls for Growth, Not Austerity

Newly appointed Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta (L) speaks next to Foreign Minister Emma Bonino at the Lower House of the parliament in Rome, April 29, 2013.
Newly appointed Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta (L) speaks next to Foreign Minister Emma Bonino at the Lower House of the parliament in Rome, April 29, 2013.
VOA News
New Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta is calling on his country and the euro currency bloc to promote economic growth and end reliance on austerity measures to resolve Europe's governmental debt crisis.

In his first address to parliament, Letta said that Italy's economy will die if it continues to rely on cutting government spending.

"We will die of fiscal consolidation alone, after 10 years without growth. Growth policies cannot wait any longer.'' he said. "Europe is in a crisis of legitimacy and ... must become once more a motor of sustainable growth."

Letta said he would visit European leaders in Brussels, Paris and Berlin in the next few days to advocate a change in Europe's focus on solving the debt crisis through spending cuts, higher taxes and elimination of government jobs.

Elsewhere, in Greece, lawmakers late Sunday adopted a law that calls for the dismissal of 15,000 civil servants by the end of 2014, with the first 2,000 laid off by the end of next month. The cutbacks were demanded by the country's international lenders in exchange for continuing bailouts for the country.

One pensioner, Panagiotis Pelekis, said austerity measures will help the Greek economy, but the government worker layoffs are difficult.

"Some things are unpleasant, but what can be done? Is there a better choice? Who wants to hear about firings? No one. That is the worst," Pelekis said. "As far as the other measures, well, something needs to be done and is being done. But the firings are the worst. With the other measures, at least there will be some progress."

The push for austerity throughout the 17-nation eurozone has been led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But in recent days other European leaders have voiced concerns that austerity alone cannot cut the region's record jobless rate or advance its stagnant economy.

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