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 US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid