Berlusconi Tries to Ease Fears of Italian Default

Administration pushing through $56B in cuts
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2011 11:46 AM CDT
Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, right, gestures during a press conference with Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti, following a cabinet meeting in Rome, Thursday, June 30, 2011.   (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

(Newser) – Silvio Berlusconi’s government is trying to fast-track a $56 billion austerity package in a bid to allay fears that Italy is about to join Europe’s debt crisis. “For us, for Italy, this is certainly not an easy moment,” the prime minister said in a statement. “The crisis is pushing us to accelerate the process of correction extremely rapidly.”

The package will freeze public sector wages, increase doctor-visit fees, and cut the funding that flows from the state to smaller local governments, according to the Wall Street Journal. Lawmakers had hoped merely revealing it would stem market panic, but after Friday and yesterday’s Italian bond sell-offs, they’ve amped up their timetable, hoping to pass it by Sunday. Italy’s main opposition group has said it supports the package, Reuters reports.

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