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Italy to pursue growth along path of EU recommendations

By Marzia De Giuli (Xinhua)

13:44, June 16, 2013

ROME, June 15 (Xinhua) -- The new Italian government on Saturday launched a package of reforms that Prime Minister Enrico Letta said will "significantly contribute to create investments and jobs" in the crisis-plagued country in line with the European commitments and recommendations.

The package, which resulted from a six-hour-long council of ministers, included a decree law and a bill of measures especially aimed at supporting small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs), a backbone of the Italian economy, and boosting infrastructures through the simplification of bureaucracy and the re-launch of a digital agenda.

The government's infrastructural plan forecast public works for a total of about three billion euros, which will create at least 30,000 new jobs in a country where around four in 10 citizens aged 15 to 24 are out of work, according to official figures.

Renovation of school buildings will be insured by a public investment of some 100 million euros while universities will be able to create another 3,000 new jobs and support education policies with more scholarships.

Regarding Italy's slow-moving justice system, the left-right coalition outlined a program to reinforce the instrument of arbitration and simplify practices with an expected one-quarter reduction of the outstanding matters. The procedure to gain Italian citizenship for foreigners who have a right to it will also be simplified.

A tax reform decreed that first homes cannot be foreclosed anymore. In addition, a state-backed fund will provide five billion euros in soft loans, at half-market rates, for companies that update their production process, while home and business electricity bills will be cut by a total of 500 million euros per year.

Other measures included re-launch of fundamental sectors in the Mediterranean country, such as tourism and culture, as well as a bill to favor reuse of soil thus foster infrastructures while protecting the environment.

According to Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, the packet was a "revolution" to restart Italy's growth by putting citizens and the state on the same level of "entities which respect each other but are also friends to each other."

The launch of the packet came following Letta's meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Rome, also on Saturday. In the meeting, Letta pledged to continue keeping the Italian deficit at three percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the ratio rule of the European treaties.

The two leaders agreed that fighting youth unemployment should be high on the agenda at the next European summit, a day after the economic and labor ministers of the eurozone's four biggest economies - Italy, France, Germany and Spain - met for talks on jobs in the Italian capital on Friday.

"While fiscal consolidation continues to be necessary particularly in countries with high deficit and this is the case of Italy," the European Union also need a "new consensus" on the two most pressing problems of youth unemployment and financing of the economy, Barroso told a joint news conference.

He said that instead of long debates about austerity and growth the European governments "should agree on a set of concrete policies on these areas" during the 27-28 June summit.

The need to restore sustainable development in the Old Continent and in the world should be then extended at the global level in the G8 summit "in terms of trade, taxation and increased transparency to push forward the agenda for growth and jobs," Barroso added. (1 euro = 1.33 U.S. dollars)

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