The euro's future "depends on the decision," Prime Minister Mario Monti says
He tells lawmakers "painful" austerity measures are necessary to end Italy's crisis
"Without this package, Italy collapses," Monti tells reporters
Italian workers would retire later, receive less
Italy’s new prime minister late Sunday proposed €30 billion ($41 billion) in new taxes and spending cuts over two years, including reductions to future pensions, in an effort to end a budget crisis that has clouded the future of Europe’s common currency.
“We are aware that the measures mean sacrifices. But not making the sacrifices today would mean making more painful ones in a few weeks, maybe even in a few days,” Prime Minister Mario Monti told the lower house of Parliament Monday, a day after his Cabinet adopted what he has dubbed a “Save Italy” decree.
About €20 billion would come from cuts, including major changes to how Italian workers’ pensions are calculated and a one-year increase in retirement ages, effective in January, Prime Minister Mario Monti announced Sunday night.
“We are in a very crucial week,” Monti said Monday, adding that he was confident Parliament would back his plan to help Italy recover from the financial crisis that has also clouded the future of Europe’s common currency.
“The future of the euro also depends on the decision we are undertaking. We are certain that Italy will not fail,” he told lawmakers in the lower house.
The upper house of Parliament also heard Monti’s proposal. Lawmakers were expected to vote later this month on the emergency decree.
“Without this package. Italy collapses. It will go to (the situation in) Greece. … We have a strong sympathy for Greece, but we don’t want to imitate them,” Monti told reporters.
The rest of the package involves a 1.5% tax on financial transactions, a new tax on high-end boats, cars and planes and efforts to crack down on tax evasion. It would cut provincial government costs while attempting to boost the Italian economy by rebuilding infrastructure.
In announcing the cuts, Monti – who also serves as finance minister – said he would take no salary for either position.
The country’s minimum pension of €500 won’t be cut, Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero said. But Italian workers would see their pensions based on their entire salary history, rather than the last three years – a move that could cut the average retiree’s pension by about €100 ($135) per month.
The announcement came after a weekend of difficult talks among political parties and with Italian labor unions, and Fornero began to cry as she announced the cuts. The package needs to be approved by Italy’s parliament, and Monti is scheduled to present the plans to lawmakers on Monday.
Italy is the third-largest economy in the euro system and the largest bond issuer, with nearly €1.9 trillion in debt. It’s the latest European country to face hard questions over its debt load, a crisis that has threatened to unravel the common currency for 17 European states.
Monti took office in November following the resignation of longtime premier Silvio Berlusconi, who was brought down by difficulties in pushing through budget cuts. He was the second European leader forced out by a debt crisis, along with Greece’s George Papandreou.
Monti, a former European Union commissioner, told his people the measures are necessary to “save Italy.” He said Italians should blame him, not European Union leaders, for the cuts.
“I will never ask Italians to take sacrifices because Europe is asking for them,” he said. But he added, “I prefer criticism of me rather than Europe. Things can go on without me, not without Europe.”