* OECD chief economist picked by Italy's Renzi
* Padoan to be 4th technocrat in a row at economy ministry
* Renzi has pledged immediate reforms to labour, tax systems
By Steve Scherer
ROME, Feb 21 With Pier Carlo Padoan, an
internationally respected economist with no experience in
frontline politics, Italy is continuing the recent tradition of
having technocrats run the economy ministry.
Like his predecessor, Bank of Italy official Fabrizio
Saccomanni, Padoan, chief economist at the Paris-based
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, will
serve as one of the main contacts with the European Central Bank
and the wider European Union.
But he will remain inescapably in the shadow of the
ambitious prime minister-in-waiting, Matteo Renzi, who opted
against installing a political heavyweight with experience in
running the sprawling ministry which oversees the euro zone's
With Italy struggling to emerge from recession and shake off
unemployment at levels last seen in the 1970s, Padoan will have
to help implement and sell an ambitious agenda that includes
reforms to the labour market, tax system and public
administration within the next four months.
Before joining the OECD in 2007, Padoan, now in his 60s,
worked at the International Monetary Fund, and from 1998 to 2011
was an advisor to two centre-left prime ministers, Massimo
D'Alema and Giuliano Amato.
As head of the OECD's economics department, Padoan has
called for aggressive easing from the ECB and was an early
critic of tough budget cuts in the euro zone's weakest economies
as they struggled with excessive debt.
He has backed Renzi's calls for better training and cuts to
Italy's high labour costs and has also made comments that chime
with the prime minister-designate's calls for strict EU budget
rules to be eased to encourage growth and allow more investment
"I recommend a golden rule that allows euro zone countries
to exclude from the calculation of the budget deficit public
spending aimed at creating new jobs," Padoan said in June.
Although the financial market turbulence which almost forced
Italy out of the euro in 2011 has eased, memories of the crisis
remain raw and his hefty international profile should serve him
well to soothe international investors and partners.
Padoan has made regular visits to Brussels to testify on
various aspects of the 28-member EU economy, and he has served
as the OECD representative at the G-20, including at this week's
meeting in Sydney.
But his three predecessors - Mario Monti, Vittorio Grilli
and Fabrizio Saccomanni - struggled as technocrat ministers in
the highly politicised corridors of Rome.
At the end of last year, Italy barely returned to growth
after struggling through its worst recession since World War Two
in which hundreds of thousands of companies have gone out of
business and youth joblessness has risen above 40 percent.
The country has been one of the worst performers in the euro
zone since its creation more than a decade ago, and it is
saddled with an enormous public debt. At 2 trillion euros ($2.74
trillion), it is more than 130 percent of total annual economic
The government will be sworn in on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
(1030 GMT) and is expected to face its first confidence vote in
parliament on Monday.