Opening a debate in the lower house ahead of his third confidence
vote since October, Letta said Italy had avoided reforms for 20
years and could no longer afford to delay, with protests across the
country this week underlining the bitter public mood after years of
"I'm determined to work with everything I have to prevent the
country falling back into chaos," he said, pledging to throw his
weight behind efforts to fight a growing tide of political
disillusion and hostility to the European Union.
He said the next 18 months would be devoted to a broad package of
institutional reforms aimed at creating a stable basis for economic
growth, which he said should reach 1 percent in 2014 and 2 percent
As well as a new electoral law and measures to untangle the
conflicting web of powers between different levels of the
administration, he promised to overhaul parliament to remove the
Senate's power to vote no confidence in the government.
He said the upper house would become a review chamber for
legislation passed in the lower house, removing one of the key
factors causing stalemate in the Italian political system.
On the economic front, he promised to rein in the deficit, cut
Italy's towering public debt, the second highest in the euro zone as
a proportion of the overall economy, lower taxes on families and
companies, reduce unemployment and boost public investment.
Privatizations would continue and the government would consider
allowing employees to buy shares in the post office and other public
companies, he said.
Letta called the confidence vote to confirm his majority after
Silvio Berlusconi, now banned from parliament, ended seven months of
cooperation with the center-left by pulling his Forza Italia party
out of the coalition.
The vote in the lower house is expected before 1500 GMT, with the
Senate due to vote in the evening.
Letta, whose center-left Democratic Party (PD) holds a strong lower
house majority, is expected to win the vote in both houses with the
help of Interior Minister Angelino Alfano's New Centre Right and a
smaller centrist group.
The prime minister has said he expects the government to survive
until at least 2015 but his task has been complicated by Sunday's
election of the 38-year-old Matteo Renzi as head of the
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Renzi, the ambitious young mayor of Florence, is expected to lead
the party into the next election, has said he wants to set his stamp
more clearly on the government's agenda and some believe he would
like to push for an election more quickly.
Letta said a formal coalition pact setting out the priorities for
2014 should be prepared in the next few weeks but he said the
government was now stronger following the withdrawal of Berlusconi's
often fractious party and its move to the opposition benches.
"Today the coalition is different, more united," Letta said.
The government has already won two confidence votes in parliament
with his reduced majority, most recently over the 2014 budget law,
still working its way through parliament and which must be approved
before the end of the year.
Italy has enjoyed a respite from the financial market tensions which
have hit it repeatedly in recent years, with the main barometer of
market confidence, the spread between yields on Italian 10-year
bonds and safer German Bunds, falling to its lowest level in more
than two years this week.
On Tuesday, national statistics agency Istat also offered a glimmer
of hope, reporting a rise in industrial output for October and
restating third quarter gross domestic product to show zero growth
after two years of steady decline.
However, protests in many Italian towns and cities this week have
underlined growing public anger over the austerity policies imposed
to keep Italy's fragile public finances under control and in line
with European Union budget rules.
(Reporting By James Mackenzie; editing by Stephen Jewkes, John
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