Crisis: Italian premier says no to more austerity

20 July, 19:55

(ANSAmed) - Rome, July 20 - Premier Mario Monti on Friday repeated that Italy would not require further austerity measures to fix the country's finances, nor should it look to bailouts.

"We have no intention of implementing new austerity cuts," said Monti. "We are on track to fulfill our budget goals and thus there is no need for new measures". Shortly after replacing Silvio Berlusconi's government amid a peak in the debt crisis in November, Monti's administration of technocrats implemented an emergency 30-billion-euro austerity package to restore public finances to health. In addition, the government is currently trying to push through a hotly contested 26-billion-euro package of public-spending cuts and sell-offs, which Monti says falls under the category of structural reform and not austerity. Known as the "spending review", the latest round of anti-crisis measures has sparked the ire of Italy's labor unions, which have called the cuts to the public sector "a meat cleaver" and have vowed to strike in September if major changes are not made. The measure, which will go before the House at the end of July, was approved by the cabinet earlier this month. Unlike countries such as Spain, which this week accepted 100 billion euros in aid from the European Union, Italy - the eurozone's third-largest economy - has not needed to request a bailout amid the crisis, nor should it down the road, according to Monti. "I believe we have to do everything, as we are doing, to get out of difficulty under our own strength," he said. But euro-crisis contagion is spreading, said the premier, pushing borrowing costs up in Italy and Spain, which saw record yield-spread levels on Friday.

"(Contagion) is underway, and it did not start today," said Monti. "Contagion is the unease that, through the markets, affects interest rates in countries that are in the same boat, in terms of greater uncertainty and faith in the irreversibilty of the euro". Despite his government's austerity measures and structural reforms aimed at curbing the effects of the recession and the euro crisis, Monti ruled out adding a wealth tax on Friday. Responding to media speculation of a special tax on wealth of over 250,000 euros, Monti said it was "not in the intentions or plans of the Italian government". (ANSAmed).

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