* Centre-left leader names 16-member cabinet
* OECD chief economist Padoan named economy minister
* Confidence vote in parliament expected Monday
By Steve Scherer and James Mackenzie
ROME, Feb 21 Italian centre-left leader Matteo
Renzi promised on Friday to start work on reforms immediately,
after he named a new cabinet and formally accepted the mandate
to form an administration he said would stay in place until
He confirmed that OECD Chief Economist Pier Carlo Padoan,
who was forced to hurry back from Australia, would take over at
the economy ministry where he will play a central role in
Renzi's bid to revitalise Italy's stagnant economy.
But there were few other big names in a 16-member cabinet
dominated by relatively low-profile politicians with a
sprinkling of non-political officials.
With a cabinet boasting no star names, the success or
failure of the government will be down to the ambitious Renzi,
who forced out party rival Enrico Letta last week after a stream
of criticism over the slow pace of economic reforms.
At 39, he will be Italy's youngest prime minister and heads
a cabinet made up mainly of ministers in their 40s and 50s, half
of them women, continuing the rejuvenation of the elderly caste
which used to run Italian politics.
Renzi, who became leader of the Democratic Party (PD) only
in December, said his government would begin work immediately
after being sworn in on Saturday.
"We're aiming to get started on things that need to be done
from tomorrow morning," he told reporters after a two-and-a-half
hour meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano.
But he will have to govern with the same cross-party
alliance that hampered his predecessor's efforts. Six of his
ministers were part of Letta's cabinet, three of them from the
small centre-right NCD party on which his parliamentary majority
depends, suggesting that he may have to tread cautiously at
times to keep his coalition together.
Renzi, whose main experience in government has been as mayor
of Florence, has sketched out ambitious plans for the eurozone's
third-largest economy and said he aimed to stay in office until
the end of the parliamentary term in four years' time.
Although he has provided few details, he has promised to
tackle electoral and constitutional reform, make the labour
market and tax systems more efficient and overhaul the bloated
public administration all within four months.
With a fractious parliament and many ministers having to
learn how to handle a complex administration as they go, the
challenge is considerable.
"There's a need to move quickly on reforms but people forget
that to get reforms done in Italy requires very specific skills
and there's no guarantee that a good economist makes a good
economy minister," said Alberto Mingardi, director general of
the free-market think tank Istituto Bruno Leoni.
Despite his reputation as a fresh force out to break up the
old structures that have held Italy back, Renzi will also be the
third prime minister in a row to reach office without winning an
election and does not even have a seat in parliament.
Although Italy's constitution does not require a prime
minister to win a national ballot, opinion polls suggest many
Italians are concerned about the lack of a mandate from voters,
and questions about how he gained office could limit his ability
to push through unpopular reform measures.
The country is only just showing signs of emerging from its
longest slump since World War Two, fighting to hold on to a
crumbling industrial base and provide jobs for millions of
unemployed, many of them young.
Renzi's room for manoeuvre will be tightly constrained by
the need to control Italy's 2 trillion-euro public debt, with
the euro zone still scarred by memories of the crisis in 2011
which nearly broke the single currency apart.
Padoan, a respected former International Monetary Fund
official, will be the fourth technocrat in a row at the economy
ministry, the key contact point with the European Central Bank
and European Union partners and an important factor in
maintaining foreign investor confidence.
As head of the OECD's economics department, Padoan has
called for aggressive easing from the European Central Bank and
was an early critic of tough budget cutbacks in the euro zone's
weakest economies as they struggled with excessive debt.
In other notable changes to the cabinet, NCD leader Angelino
Alfano kept his post as interior minister, but will no longer
have the title of deputy prime minister after Renzi ruled out
giving him a post that could challenge his own authority.
Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, a well-known figure outside
Italy, leaves the government to be replaced by Federica
Mogherini, a 40-year-old defence and foreign policy specialist
in the PD.
A poll on Friday by the SWG polling institute posted a dip
in support for the PD, to 29.9 percent from 32.2 percent a week
earlier, while support for former Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi's Forza Italia rose to 21.8 percent from 20 percent.
The survey showed 27 percent saw Renzi as a leader capable
of giving Italy a future, more than any other potential rival on
the list. But that vote of support was still outscored by the 30
percent who picked "none".