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Saccomanni says asset sale will send positive signal to EU

Economy minister admits privatization plan won't slay debt

12 February, 16:24
Saccomanni says asset sale will send positive signal to EU (See related) (ANSA) - Rome, February 12 - The sale of State assets to help pay down Italy's sizeable debt will send a positive signal to the European Union that the country is serious about getting its balance sheet in order, Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni said Wednesday.

He acknowledged that the eight billion to nine billion euros that he expects to net from the sale of stakes in State enterprises "will be small in relation to the debt," but is an encouraging sign.

"I think it does give a signal to Europe and to ourselves that we are trying to find different ways to reduce the debt than cutting the amount of public spending (and) increased taxation," said Saccomanni. Earlier, the minister said that by year-end, the government will sell such assets such as stakes in the post office and the national air-traffic agency as part of efforts to raise much-needed capital to offset Italy's huge debt.

The EU has raised concerns about Italy's ability to achieve debt-reduction targets, which are also triggers that may allow a country to gain access to the EU's so-called "investment clause" that offers more leeway in debt calculations.

To be eligible for this investment clause, the country must come up with a debt-payment plan judged sufficient to put Italy on a declining debt-to-GDP ratio.

At more than two trillion euros, a figure exceeding 130% of GDP, Italy's public debt is second in the eurozone only to that of Greece.