ROME (Reuters) - Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Friday that Italy’s expansionary 2019 budget, which is contested by the European Commission, will prevent the kind of unrest that has rocked France.
“There are several million forgotten Italians we are taking care of so that what has been happening in France doesn’t happen in Italy,” Salvini, who is also interior minister and leader of the right-wing League party, said in a television interview.
The draft budget raises the deficit to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product next year from 1.8 percent this year.
Brussels has rejected the plan and asked for changes, saying it breaks previous commitments to reduce borrowing and will not lower Italy’s large public debt.
Among the main measures in Italy’s budget are a reduction in the retirement age and a new income support scheme for the poor, known as the “citizens’ wage” which together will cost state coffers around 16 billion euros ($18.22 billion).
The package will help avoid “the chaos we have seen in France for weeks, where social poverty, fear and unemployment have blocked entire cities”, Salvini told Canale 5 shortly before a parliamentary confidence vote on the budget.
France is preparing for another wave of potentially violent protests on Saturday - a backlash against high living costs but also, increasingly, a revolt against President Emmanuel Macron himself, including his perceived loftiness and reforms favoring a moneyed elite.
Macron has made concessions to the “yellow vest” protesters by suspending planned increases to fuel taxes for at least six months. Senior allies of Macron said the president would address the nation early next week.
France’s deficit was already targeted at 2.8 percent of GDP next year, and it could now potentially rise above the EU’s 3 percent ceiling.
Officials in Salvini’s League party have said the French situation strengthens Italy’s hand in its ongoing negotiations with the Commission.
Italy has seen no significant social unrest in recent years, even though its economic growth has been much weaker than France’s and its unemployment rate higher.
Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Alison Williams