* Lower house votes to back government by comfortable margin
* New administration now fully empowered
* Renzi vows to turn round economy
* Says will move to pay off public arrears within 15 days
* Promises 10 bln-euro cut in labour taxes
By Naomi O'Leary and Gavin Jones
ROME, Feb 25 Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
won a final parliamentary vote of confidence on Tuesday after
pledging to slash red tape and "revolutionise" the economy.
The Chamber of Deputies approved the confidence motion by
the comfortable margin of 378 in favour to 220 against, fully
empowering the coalition consisting of Renzi's Democratic Party
(PD), the New Centre Right party, centrists and other small
Renzi had been expected to win the vote easily due to the
PD's lower house majority.
The 39-year-old Renzi, Italy's youngest prime minister, said
radical steps were needed to revive an economy that has barely
grown for the past 15 years and restore citizens' confidence in
In his first address to the lower house ahead of the vote,
Renzi said "Italy's finest page has yet to be written", in a
speech that produced many of his trademark rhetorical flourishes
but few specific policy commitments.
However in a later television interview he added some
details, saying that his government would present amendments
within 15 days to unblock 60 billion euros ($82.40 billion) to
pay off public administration arrears.
He suggested that a promised 10-billion-euro cut in the
"tax wedge", the difference between what an employer pays and a
worker takes home, could come from reducing required social
But he backed away from a previous indication by his chief
of staff that Italy could increase taxes on Italian debt
"I think there is space to increase tax on financial
investments earnings, I wouldn't say from treasury bills but on
pure financial investments, to reduce the costs of labour,"
Renzi told the interview with television show Ballaro.
Renzi, the outgoing mayor of Florence and leader of the
centre-left Democratic Party (PD), ousted his predecessor,
Enrico Letta, as prime minister earlier this month by
withdrawing the PD's support from his government.
His 50-minute speech to the lower house was delivered in his
usual colloquial style which differs sharply from that of his
predecessors. There was little applause even from his
He promised to overhaul the tax system by "a gigantic
operation of simplification", and to cut unemployment from well
above 12 percent with "the courage to revolutionise the economic
and legal system of our country".
Renzi spoke of the importance of the European Union, saying
Italy's six-month presidency of the region from July was "a
gigantic opportunity" to establish a greater role for the
country in shaping EU policy.
However, he shed no light on whether he would push for Italy
to be given leeway to allow its budget deficit to exceed the
EU's ceiling of 3.0 percent of output, as he had suggested on
several occasions prior to becoming prime minister.
"Europe today doesn't give us hope because we have allowed
the debate to be dominated by decimal points and percentages,"
"We want a Europe where Italy doesn't just go and receive
instructions but gives a fundamental contribution, because there
can be no Europe without Italy."