Italy declines to revise draft budget to comply with EU fiscal rules

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Italy's government had been given time until Tuesday to change its 2019 plans rejected by the European Commission that could see it punished with financial sanctions for a large spending budget it cannot afford.

Anna Maria Bianchi, a 62-year-old nurse who could have retired this year had it not been for pension reforms introduced by Italy's previous government, agrees with Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini that Brussels should mind its own business. Deputy-premiers Luigi Di Maio of Five Star and Salvini of the League are, however, determined to start delivering on campaign promises to boost benefit spending, cut taxes and lower the retirement age.

The Commission last month rejected Italy's plan for a big increase in the deficit and described its growth forecast for 2019 as overly optimistic.

It said Government spending was too high and the deficit would rise instead of fall and debt would not fall in line with European Union rules. Di Maio did not detail what would be sold, but said the properties won't include "the family jewels".

"The budget will not change, neither in its balance sheet nor in its growth forecast".

Speaking at the European Parliament on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU wanted to reach out to Italy, but that the eurozone will only work "if every individual member fulfills their responsibility for sustainable finances".

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On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned Italy that doing nothing to reduce its public debt could drive the country into a recession, ANSA news agency reported. A rising budget deficit inflates a country's public debt.

"The deficit will decrease with growth, and this will reduce the debt to GDP ratio to 130 percent next year and..." The country's public debt levels sit at 131% of GDP, making it the fifth most indebted country in the world.

All eyes are on the "spread" - the difference between yields on 10-year Italian government debt compared to those in Germany - which has more than doubled since May, when negotiations to form the coalition government in Rome began.

In a November 8 statement, Tria argued that "the European Commission's forecasts on Italy's deficit are in stark contrast with those of the Italian government and stem from a careless and biased analysis. we regret to note this technical failure on the part of the Commission".

Mr Salvini mocked European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's attempts to make demands to Italy.

Vladis Dombrovskis, the EU Commissioner responsible for financial affairs, said: "From previous experiences, we've seen that damage to the economy can be done quickly, but then it takes years to fix". You can sign up to receive it directly here.

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