Italy PM Letta promises reform package to boost growth
ROME (Reuters) - Prime Minister Enrico Letta pledged a package of institutional and economic reforms to lift Italy's stagnant economy out of recession and reach growth of 2 percent by 2015 as he opened a debate ahead of a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday.
Letta said the next 18 months would be devoted to reforms ranging from overhauling parliament and Italy's widely criticised electoral law to cutting taxes on families and companies and cutting record unemployment, while reducing the public debt and deficit.
"I'm determined to work with everything I have to prevent the country falling back into chaos," he said.
Letta called the confidence vote to confirm his majority after Silvio Berlusconi, now banned from parliament, ended seven months of cooperation with the centre-left by pulling his Forza Italia party out of the coalition.
The vote in the lower house is expected before 10 a.m ET, with the Senate due to vote in the evening.
Letta, whose centre-left Democratic Party holds a strong lower house majority, is expected to win the vote in both houses with the help of Interior Minister Angelino Alfano's New Centre Right and a smaller centrist group.
The government has already won two confidence votes in parliament with his reduced majority, most recently over the 2014 budget law, still working its way through parliament and which must be approved before the end of the year.
"Today the coalition is different, more united," Letta said.
On Wednesday, national statistics agency Istat offered a glimmer of hope, reporting a rise in industrial output for October and restating third quarter gross domestic product to show zero growth after two years of steady decline.
However protests in many Italian towns and cities this week have underlined growing public anger over the austerity policies imposed to keep Italy's fragile public finances under control and in line with European Union budget rules.
(Reporting By James Mackenzie, editing by Stephen Jewkes, John Stonestreet)