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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid