Italy's austerity plan wins final confidence vote in Senate   2011-12-22 22:49:48             

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (C) delivers a speech before a confidence vote in Rome, Italy, Dec. 22, 2011. Italy's Senate gave final approval Thursday to Monti's emergency austerity plan that he said will "save Italy" from a dramatic debt crisis. (Xinhua/Wang Qingqin) 

ROME, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Italy's Senate gave final approval Thursday to Prime Minister Mario Monti's emergency austerity plan that he said will "save Italy" from a dramatic debt crisis.
The upper house of parliament approved the 30-billion-euro package (39 billion U.S. dollars) -- Italy's third austerity plan since June -- in a 257-to-41 confidence vote.
Monti's emergency cabinet of unelected technocrats requested a confidence vote on the legislation to forestall further changes and debates on the measures, which mainly include a tax on residences, new levies and a rise of retirement age to 66 by 2018.
The package was approved last week by the lower house, or the Chamber of Deputies, which managed to introduce a few amendments, including measures to raise the baseline for pensions that will not be indexed to inflation.
Main political parties, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party and the Democratic Party, backed the measures "for a sense of responsibility," while other parties such as the Northern League fiercely opposed the plan, which they considered unfair as it would hit workers and protect lobbies.
Addressing Senate lawmakers, Monti said the sacrifices Italy is to carry out are "significantly inferior" to the ones it would go through in the absence of a necessary austerity turning point.
"In fact, Italy's vulnerability is due to its public debt (some 120 percent of gross domestic product) accumulated for decades, there will be no stability if budget is not balanced," the prime minister said, adding his government would "strongly act" for a more cohesive economic policy at the European level.
According to analysts, the austerity package may push Italy deeper into a recession projected to begin in the current quarter after its GDP contracted 0.2 percent in the third quarter.
"We had to act in a hurry...we are like doctors who have been called to rescue a very ill patient," Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero told state-run television Rai recently in an interview, referring to Italy's financial situation.

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