ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday laid out in parliament the policy priorities of his new coalition government combining the pro-european Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.
Following are the main points from the new-look program.
The 2020 budget will be the initial priority.
Conte said the government would find the cash to prevent an increase in sales tax (VAT) that is set to come into force automatically on Jan. 1 to keep the deficit in check. He said the budget would also be designed to boost the stagnant economy and put Italy on the path to sustainable development.
The prime minister promised a reduction in labor taxes, the introduction of a minimum wage and incentives to small and medium-sized enterprises, together with tougher sanctions for tax dodgers, including prison terms.
The new government will launch an extraordinary investment plan for Italy’s poorer south, which could include the creation of a state-owned bank.
Conte also committed to respecting EU fiscal rules, but with a call for their reform, while reducing Italy’s debt mountain.
Conte promised to revise legislation drawn up by his past coalition, which was championed by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and shut Italian territorial waters to charity rescue ships, increasing fines for those who failed to comply.
President Sergio Mattarella has raised concerns about the new law and Conte said his views would be taken into account.
Conte also told parliament he would work with the European Union to try to devise a policy of sharing newly arrived migrants across the 28-nation bloc.
The previous 5-Star and League coalition had troubled ties with Brussels over Italian state finances and immigration. Conte has promised to reset relations, saying Italy lay at the heart of the EU. He called for constructive dialogues over revising budget, migration and banking norms.
Conte reaffirmed Italy’s commitment to NATO, its “essential” alliance with the United States and its desire for stability and economic growth across the Mediterranean region.
He said he intended to “continue to develop relations” with major nations such as Russia, China and India.
Luigi Di Maio, the 5-Star leader and new foreign minister, has named Italy’s outgoing ambassador to China as his chief of staff, suggesting he wants to strengthen ties with China.
The 5-Star demanded that its plans to cut the number of parliamentarians from 945 to 600 be supported by the PD. Conte said his government would introduce a new electoral law — the fourth since 2005 — to facilitate the reform.
Conte promised to invest more in research, help those from poorer families access education and increase salaries for teachers. Lorenzo Fioramonti, the new 5-Star education minister, has proposed taxes on snacks and soft drinks as a way to bolster funds for school and research.
The government program contains a pledge to include the protection of the environment and biodiversity in the constitution. It also promises to focus on the fight against climate change.
Conte said his government plans to introduce regulations to block new drilling concessions for hydrocarbons.
Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer and David Goodman