* New legislation introduced last week
* Includes 800 mln euros towards electricity costs this year
* Measures seek to ease credit access, investment
By Steve Scherer and Giuseppe Fonte
ROME, June 18 Italy moved to help small- and
medium-sized businesses with their electricity costs and
launched a package of measures to improve investment under
legislation introduced last week and detailed to reporters on
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government passed a decree on
Friday containing a series of minor changes aimed at improving
competitiveness, while promised overhauls of the labour market,
public administration, the judicial and political system are
still in the works.
The measures include 800 million euros ($1 billion) to
reduce electricity costs this year and new rules allowing
insurers and credit funds to lend directly to businesses.
"These measures will definitely increase the country's
potential growth rate," Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan told
reporters during a joint press conference held with Industry
Minister Federica Guidi.
Italy, the euro zone's third-biggest economy, is struggling
to grow after a two-year recession and unemployment has soared
to nearly 13 percent, its highest level since the 1970s. The
39-year-old Renzi, who took power in February, has said
stimulating growth and creating jobs are his top priorities.
Italian companies pay about a third more than the European
Union average for electricity, and with the new measures the
government "seeks to guarantee" savings of 10 percent, or an
average of about 1,500 euros per year, for more than 700,000
businesses, Guidi said.
Some solar power incentives and other energy subsidies will
be cut in order to pay for the measure, she said. Low-cost
guarantees for electricity for high-speed, private railway
services will also be reduced, according to a document outlining
To help revive investment spending, businesses that invest
at least 10,000 euros in machinery or intermediary goods over
the next year will be eligible for a tax break in 2016.
The legislation also aims to "ease access to credit for
businesses," Padoan said, by removing fiscal disincentives for
businesses to raise cash through bond sales and a series of
incentives for companies that raise money on the equities
($1 = 0.7383 Euros)
(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)