ROME (Reuters) - Italy is asking the European Union to exclude spending on infrastructure projects from the calculation of national budget deficits, Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi was quoted as saying in Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Italy, with the second-highest public debt in the euro zone as a proportion of national output, has led a drive for greater flexibility in the way EU budget rules are applied, to encourage economic growth and investment.
Asked in an interview with the newspaper published on Saturday whether the government was asking the EU not to include infrastructure investments when calculating public deficits, Lupi said: “Yes, we are doing it.”
He said there would be an informal meeting of EU transport ministers in Milan on Sept. 16 to discuss the role of infrastructure in aiding growth.
“One of the points on the agenda is to agree that spending for investments in certain projects that are strategic for Europe are not included in the deficit calculation for the countries that carry them out,” he told the newspaper.
The Italian government called for incentives for countries to reform their finances after years of austerity as it opened its term as president of the EU earlier this year, but European officials said there should be no exceptions to budget rules.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan have repeatedly said the country’s budget deficit will come in under the European Union’s limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product, even after the economy slipped into a triple-dip recession in the second quarter.
Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Pravin Char