Italy cuts number of provinces in cost-saving drive

ROME Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:49pm EDT

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ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government approved a law on Wednesday that will almost halve the number of provinces as part of a drive to cut the heavy cost of regional administrations.

The decree, which will cut the number of provinces to 51 from 86 at present, is part of a broader effort to attack the bloated cost of Italy's local and regional governments, a notorious source of waste and inefficiency.

Prime Minister Mario Monti has been conducting a wide ranging review of public spending to try to eliminate waste and help control Italy's mammoth public debt which amounts to some 126 percent of gross domestic product.

The government gave no estimate of the savings it expected from the reform but said it would have a clearer idea once a wider reorganization of local and regional administrations was complete.

Approved at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the decree includes large cities such as Milan, which will incorporate the province of Monza, but does not include semi-autonomous regions such as Sicily.

The provinces, which are responsible for functions including motor vehicle registries and some schools are part of a complex, overlapping web of local administrations that includes municipal, provincial and regional governments.

Under the decree, the provincial governments will be abolished from 2013. It also include measures to prevent local officials from holding several offices at once.

The cabinet also approved a separate package of measures intended to cut 40 million euros a year from the cost of regional governments, by reducing waste and inefficiency.

(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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