Exclusive: Italy coalition drafts bill to reform central bank's management

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s coalition has drawn up a bill aimed at giving the government and parliament the right to name the central bank’s five-member board, ending the current system by which appointments are made mainly internally.

The draft bill, obtained by Reuters, is likely to increase long-running tensions between the Bank of Italy and the government, made up of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League.

A Bank of Italy spokeswoman declined to comment on the draft bill.

The coalition has accused the central bank of poor supervision which it says caused a spate of bank collapses in recent years in which thousands of Italians lost their savings.

For his part, Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco has frequently criticised the government, warning that any potential benefits of its expansionary fiscal policies risk being outweighed by the higher borrowing costs they produce.

The legislation, which must be approved by both houses of parliament before becoming law, comes four months after League chief and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini vowed to “completely clear out” the central bank’s top brass.

The draft bill, titled “Modifications to the Statute and Organisms of the Bank of Italy,” says three board members, including the governor and his deputy, should be named by the prime minister after consultation with the cabinet.

Of the other two, one should be named by the lower house Chamber of Deputies and the other by the upper house Senate, by secret votes requiring an absolute majority of those present in each house.

Those appointed will need to have “recognised experience in economic sectors or constitutional bodies.”

Currently, the government only has the main say in naming the governor, who is appointed through a complicated procedure which in any case also requires consultation with the central bank’s main internal body, known as its “superior council”.

The other board members are named by the superior council and then rubber-stamped by the government.

Article 1 of the bill, drawn up by the Senate heads of the ruling parties, says any modifications to the Bank of Italy’s statute must in future be decided by parliament.

Currently, changes to the statute can only be proposed by the assembly of the Bank of Italy’s shareholders.

Alberto Bagnai, a prominent League economist who heads the Senate Finance Commission, said last week the central bank was too “self-referential” and that the government needed to bring its management structure more into line with the rest of Europe.

additional reporting by Stefano Bernabei and Angelo Amante; editing by David Evans