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Letta pledges to fight poverty, unemployment in 2014

Napolitano urges reform of procedures for decrees

27 December, 16:12
Letta pledges to fight poverty, unemployment in 2014 (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, December 27 - Premier Enrico Letta said Friday that his left-right coalition government will spend 800 million euros on measures to fight poverty in recession-battered Italy next year.

Earlier this month, national statistics agency Istat said almost 30% (29.9%) of people living in Italy were suffering or risked suffering poverty and social exclusion in 2012. Italy has been badly hit by the global economic crisis, with unemployment climbing to record highs of over 12% and four in 10 young people under 25 out of work.

The country is currently emerging from its longest recession since World War II.

After two years of negative growth, Italy's gross domestic product was flat in the third quarter with respect to the April-June period. Letta said Friday that the government had managed to find 300 million euros for poverty-fighting measures on top of the 500 million already allocated.

The premier also hailed a new 700-million-euro fund to bolster employment and create jobs that was first announced last month as part of the 2014 budget. Letta said 150 million would go towards tax breaks on jobs for the young while 200 million would be earmarked for women and the elderly.

A further 350 million will set up mechanisms, including retraining, to help those who lose their jobs find new ones. He was speaking after his cabinet approved the 'Milleproroghe' decree that traditionally follows the annual budget and contains a hodgepodge of measures that needed to be passed before the end of the year.

The decree features some measures that were contained in a separate package, the so-called Save Rome decree, which the government dropped even though it passed a confidence vote in the Lower House after President Giorgio Napolitano expressed reservations about its constitutionality.

They include assistance for the cash-strapped capital's council.

Letta said the Milleproroghe also reinstates a measure giving the House the power to cancel multi-million-euro "golden rent" contracts for offices outside the parliament building in central Rome.

The cancellation of the measure in mysterious circumstances caused outrage among opposition parties.

After the mess with the Save Rome decree, Napolitano wrote a letter to parliament and Letta on Friday calling for greater care with amendments to decrees and a change of the regulations in how they are handled.

The head of State complained about the tendency for MPs and Italian governments to add piles of amendments to decrees that have little or nothing to do with the original legislation.

He cited the example of the Save Rome decree, saying 10 new articles and a total of 90 new items had been added to it.

Slipping these amendments into decrees means they have a greater chance of quickly being brought into force.

This is because, unlike ordinary bills, the government has just two months to get a decree passed through parliament in order for it to remain valid.

Letta said the Milleproroghe also contained a series of measures to prevent Italy losing 6.2 billion euros in European Union structural funds. Transport and Infrastructure Minister Maurizio Lupi said the money would go to projects that "will immediately be operative".