Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti urged his European partners on Thursday to speed measures to limit contagion from the debt crisis crippling some countries and stimulate economic growth — or risk a backlash from citizens paying the price for belt tightening.
“We stepped away from the precipice before, but the hole is growing bigger and it may swallow us up. We are again in a crisis,” Monti said on Saturday at a ribbon cutting ceremony near Milan.
Monti took over in November from discredited former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and passed a tough austerity package to try to restore investor confidence as the recession mired country teetered on the edge of a Greek style default.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti delivers a speech before receiving the ESMT Responsible Leadership Award during the annual forum of the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) in Berlin June 13, 2012.
Italy loses more than 120 billion euros in unpaid taxesevery year, according to the Equitalia tax collection agency.
The deal’s success would depend on Spain’s being able to tap the bond markets at sustainable rates — which presumably need to be well below the 7 percent level at which Greece, Portugal and Ireland sought bailouts.
Yields pushing through 7 percent triggered international bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
In the meantime, the austerity coupled with a labor market reform seen as threat to full time workers have driven down Monti’s approval rating to 33 percent from 71 percent when he took office, pollsters SWG said on Friday.
Monti’s policies have been the focus of repeated criticism by the country’s three biggest labor unions, which on Saturday staged a march and harangued the government during speeches in Rome’s People’s Square.
JOBS, NOT CUTSOrganizers said that 200,000 turned out for the march through central Rome.
They chanted, waved red and green and white striped flags, and blew whistles on a bright, hot morning in the capital.
“We are here because the government’s programme … is causing the recession to deepen in our country,” Susanna Camusso, leader of Italy’s biggest labor union, told Reuters television.
She and other labor leaders urged the government not to cut the welfare system to reduce the deficit, and to focus instead on creating new jobs as unemployment climbs above 10 percent.
“The elections in Greece are obviously a major concern, but we need to remember that if Greece is in trouble it is because Europe from the start did not choose social policies as a way out of the crisis,” she said.
The Rome march passed off without incident, but a more vocal group is scheduled to march in Bologna on Saturday afternoon despite a police veto.
Monti is scheduled to speak at a conference in the northern Italian city at 1400 GMT.
Countering an increase in political as well as popular disenchantment with his government, Monti on Friday passed what he dubbed a “growth decree”.
Italy’s economy, the euro zone’s third biggest, grew on average less than any other European Union country over the past decade.
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