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Saccomanni plans to rev up economy

Vows to lower business and labor taxes in Davos

24 January, 17:17
Saccomanni plans to rev up economy (By Emily Backus) (ANSA) - Rome, January 24 - The Italian government aims to "reduce taxes on labour and businesses" Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni told journalists on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

As a "first sign" in that direction, the government is delaying a payment deadline for the Inail business tax to May, granting three "free" months of liquidity, Saccomanni said.

The minister added that his government's program for privatizing and divesting public assets is being launched Friday, beginning with the Italian postal company Poste Italiane and its air-traffic company ENAV.

The minister said that the proposed privatizations will be the subject of Friday's cabinet meeting in Rome, and said the program will last two years.

Saccomanni also expressed optimism about high investor interest in Italian assets.

"There is extremely high interest in Italy," said Saccomanni, adding that the Italian government's reforms and public finance efforts have been "widely appreciated".

"The perception of Italy has changed. Also here in Davos.

There are clear indications that public finances are in order as well as recovery, beyond the scepticism of a few, especially in Italy," the minister told Italian newspaper La Stampa in an interview.

Saccomanni attributed the change in perception to "overall privatization programme, the project of repatriating capital, the overall strategy of structural reforms''. "In any case, we've done pension reform and now we're working on taxes. We're moving forward," he added.

Saccomanni said that after a deeply recessionary first half, Italy's economy in 2013 saw zero growth in the third quarter, and is showing growth in the last of 0.2-0.4%. "In 2014, we will be around 1%, by our estimates," Saccomanni told the newspaper. In Davos on Friday, Saccomanni told journalists that Italy and Switzerland are "close" to an agreement concerning taxes on illicit deposits made from Italy across the alps.

The minister reported that a morning meeting with his Swiss counterpart Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf went "well" but cautioned that he could not "give a precise date" for when the deal would be sealed. The minister said in the meeting he explained plans to Widmer-Schlumpf for Italian reform on treatment of tax-dodgers. "I illustrated what the (Italian) government intends to do this afternoon when I return to Rome," Saccomanni said.

"The cabinet will approve a new structure on relationships between the tax authority and evaders, which we maintain must be an Italian cornerstone for making bilateral agreements with other countries," the minister added.

Saccomanni did not explain the nature of the changes, but did say they aim to provide "a clear base" for negotiating "with single countries or on an international level, for example in the OECD headquarters".

Saccomanni said the Swiss-Italian agreement will not follow the Rubik Project model, a Swiss initiative to create and administer a flat-rate tax on behalf of other governments, starting with Germany and the UK, but that maintains full bank secrecy.

"We never believed that to be proposable, because it maintains anonymity levels that we do not intend to introduce into Italian legislation. We can not accept residual forms of anonymity, because they would not be consistent with the new Italian legislation," Saccomanni said.

Saccomanni added that Italy is working on automated data exchange with Switzerland as well as an international norm for data exchange also with other countries.