Renzi govt says not touching pensions

Row over pensions transferred to spouses 'groundless'

(ANSA) - Rome, February 15 - Matteo Renzi's government said Monday it was not true it was going to cut State pensions that have been transferred to a spouse following the death of the holder.
    As the furore continued nonetheless, Renzi again claimed credit for lowering taxes to help boost the Italian economy towards faster growth, with Italy still struggling to really rev up again after a long and tenacious recession.
    Later in the day, arriving for an official visit to Argentina, Renzi said Italy and Argentina could do a lot for each other.
    A furore over reports that the government intends to cut State pensions continued on Monday even though the executive denied there was any truth in the speculation.
    "The row over transferred pensions is totally groundless," said Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti of the question that was raised by Northern League leader Matteo Salvini at the weekend regarding a proposed government enabling law.
    "Obviously some people try to get easy visibility and invent a problem that does not exist.
    "The government's enabling law bill explicitly leaves in tact all current positions.
    "There are no interventions on transferred State pensions under consideration. All the enabling bill proposes is that overlaps and anomalous situations be overcome". Opposition politicians, however, were not satisfied, amid speculation such pensions will be linked to a person's score on the ISEE means test.
    Maurizio Gasparri, a Senator for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI), linked the issue to a bill regulating civil unions, which will extend some rights currently enjoyed by heterosexual married couples to gay couples.
    "It incredible that the government is considering cutting pensions transferred to widows and widowers while at the same time extending them to gay couples," Gasparri said.
    "Renzi must explain to us the reasons for this shameful act of social injustice that will hit the weakest people". The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) also blasted Renzi's administration. "This is how the government intends to combat poverty, by cashing on on transferred pensions and once again attacking pension rights," the M5S said.
    "We will combat this unacceptable design with all our strength".
    If there are further changes to the pensions regime, this time by intervening on reversibility, Italians "will have to acknowledge that this government must be sent home", Carmelo Barbagallo, secretary-general of Italy's third largest trades union confederation UIL said. "They say it's a bluff, but I have the impression they are trying it on to see the reaction," Barbagallo said.
    "We were used to Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor, they we moved on to the version who stole from the poor to give to the rich, but now we have the genetically modified one who takes from the poor to give to the poor," he added. Renzi meanwhile defended the record of his government, citing tax cuts as a major achievement. "Everyone is convinced that we were right to lower taxes," Renzi said in his Enews newsletter. "Everyone has their own personal table of what should have been cut and what should have been kept.
    "It's impossible to please everyone. But there's the awareness that there's been a change of gear with respect to the past - now taxes are coming down, before they went up".
    Italy "is back", Renzi said Monday, a week to the day that the government will celebrate its two years in office.
    To mark the date, February 22, Renzi said he would meet the foreign press "to show, numbers at hand, how Italy has returned and wants to make itself heard ever more".
    He said he would make three factory visits from north to south to show the impact of his Jobs Act labour reforms.
    Renzi also said that the EU remained a priority for the government in managing migrants and fostering better growth-stoking policies.
    "On Wednesday I will be in parliament ahead of the EU summit on Thursday and Friday," he said in his e-news.
    "The European agenda continues to be the No.1 priority for all. Migration, financial crises, lack of stimulus for growth, but I say also culture and research: the European capital this week was not Brussels but Cascina near Pisa where Italian researchers played a decisive role in the discovery of gravitational waves".
    Later, in Buenos Aires, Renzi said at an Italian school in Buenos Aires Monday that "Argentina and Italy can do a lot of things together, in many sectors. "You will see in the next few months how many visits, meetings, delegations." Speaking at the Cristoforo Colombo school, he said "Before talking about business, cultural cooperation, sport, soccer I want to tell you I feel at home here".
    Argentina and Italy are sisters, Renzi said on the visit to the Italian school. He said they "shared great values". The premier said "we may be cousins with the French, with Argentina I would talk about sisters", Renzi said, joking with the students.
    Renzi said "sorry if I arrive 18 years late, after the last premier came. And sorry if I arrive half an hour later than the schedule". The premier apologised for making the students come back from holiday. The last premier to visit was Romano Prodi in 1998.
    Earlier, Renzi laid a wreath at a monument to Argentina founding father General José de San Martin shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires. On hand to welcome Renzi were Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and city Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta. After the brief ceremony Renzi was hailed with a "bravo Matteo" by a group of Italian tourists.
    Renzi met Italian businesspeople in Buenos Aires, stressing now trade and business could be boosted under new President Mauricio Macri.
    Among those present were Enel CEO Francesco Starace, Finmeccanica CEO Mauro Moretti, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Managing Director Fabio Gallia and Trevi CEO Davide Trevisani.
    Also on hand were Luigi Scordamaglia of Federalimentari, Licia Mattioli and Enrico Ghella as well as representatives of Ansaldo, Esaote, Pirelli and Fiat Chrysler.