News / Europe

    Italy PM Renzi Wins Confidence Vote, Pledges Tax Cuts, Reform

    FILE - Italian Premier Matteo Renzi.
    FILE - Italian Premier Matteo Renzi.
    Reuters
    Prime Minister Matteo Renzi won his first confidence vote in parliament, pledging to cut labor taxes, free up funds for investment in schools and pass wide institutional reforms to tackle Italy's economic malaise.
              
    Facing parliament for the first time, the 39-year-old Renzi, who is Italy's youngest premier, sketched out an ambitious program of change in an hour-long speech delivered in his trademark quick-fire style, interspersed with occasional jeers from the opposition benches.
          
    “If we lose this challenge, the fault will be mine alone,” he told the Senate. The eurozone's third-largest economy is in urgent need of potentially painful reforms and is weighed down by a 2-trillion-euro public debt.
     
    Backed by his own center-left Democratic Party (PD), the small center-right NCD party, centrists and other minor groups, Renzi won the backing of the upper house by 169 votes to 139 in a vote taken in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
     
    The outgoing mayor of Florence, who won the leadership of the PD in December, forced his party rival Letta to resign as prime minister earlier this month after repeatedly criticizing his government's record.
          
    Renzi promised sound public finances, which he said was a duty Italy owed to its own children rather than to its European Union partners. But he offered little detail and did not say whether his government would seek any easing in tight EU budget limits, as he has suggested in the past.
          
    President Barack Obama telephoned Renzi on Monday, welcoming the new government's reform agenda and its focus on jobs and growth, Renzi's office said in a statement.
     
    The new premier promised to make it cheaper for companies to take on staff by reducing payroll taxes in the first half of the year with a double-digit cut in the so-called tax wedge, which is the difference between what it costs a company to employ a worker and the worker's take-home pay.
     
    He said the measure would be financed by spending cuts and other measures and said the government would evaluate increasing tax on financial income to pay for a wider labor shake-up.
     
    On Sunday, his chief of staff Graziano Delrio caused a stir by suggesting the government was considering raising taxes on government bonds, which are popular with Italian savers.
     
    Rapid tempo
     
    Renzi took office on Saturday promising a radical increase in tempo, with an overhaul of the electoral and constitutional system to ensure more stable governments in future, tax and labor reforms and a shake-up of the bloated public administration, all within his first 100 days.
          
    The tone of his speech was direct and colloquial, in contrast to the sober style of his two predecessors, Letta and Mario Monti. Noting that, at 39, he was not even old enough to hold a seat in the Senate, where the minimum age is 40, he said that politics had lost touch with citizens.
          
    “If we'd paid the same attention to what people say in their local markets that we often paid to the financial markets, we would have noticed that the first thing people want is simplicity,” he said.
     
    He said the government's priority had to be to help small businesses and people who had lost their jobs and he promised to strengthen welfare protection for the unemployed. He also said the government would make “a few billion” euros available for urgently needed investment in school buildings.
          
    The public administration would completely pay off its arrears of unpaid bills, completing a campaign to free up billions of euros owed to private sector suppliers begun by his predecessor Letta.
          
    He gave little detail about how he intended to fill the funding gap left by paying off the arrears, but said it could involve the state-owned investment holding Cassa dei Depositi e Prestiti.
     
    A comprehensive package of reforms to the notoriously sluggish justice system would be completed by June and long-promised electoral and constitutional reforms would be in place and ready to go before parliament by the end of March.
     
    The Senate vote will be followed by a separate vote on Tuesday in the lower house, where the PD has a strong majority, wrapping up the parliamentary process required for every new government.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora