Italian pension reform bill goes to senate

ITALY – The long-awaited pension reform bill is to be presented to the senate for discussion next Tuesday, the finance ministry confirmed today.

The bill has been the subject of seemingly endless negotiations for months between the government and unions. “It is the international community asking for it,” welfare minister Roberto Maroni said.

The choice of March 9 for the presentation to the senate, a day before the unions are due to meet to consider their strategy - which could include a general strike, was “coincidental” a spokesperson at the finance ministry said.

“The aim is to accelerate the reforms to make sure they do not spread too far in time. If one continues to postpone, one never goes forward,” the spokesperson said.

In mid-February Maroni, one of the reform’s architects, outlined the reform schedule saying: “The reform will happen before June.”

Maroni said yesterday that he was “satisfied” with the decision, adding that bowing the requests of the international community was one of the “many reasons” to quicken the pace of reform.

Explaining the government’s official line that the reforms were demanded by the international community, the spokesperson said the European Council of Finance Ministers, Ecofin, and the European Commission had asked for progress to be made in structural reforms.

“So, I would say, they covertly hinted at the pension reforms” he said.

In an interview with the daily La Repubblica, finance minister Giulio Tremonti said: “We are the last ones and we have to get a move on. After all, we have been discussing the matter for one year and a half. Now it is time we acted.”

Tremonti also said the issue of the pension reform was “a matter of trust”. “I will go to Ecofin as the parliament votes on the reform” he added.

But the leader of the senators from the opposition party DS, Democratici di Sinistra, Gavino Angius, said: “ The government’s proposal is unacceptable.” He said the bill would only include the amendments put forward by the government.

The senate’s “work committee”, which is now examining the 190 amendments to the bill, will meet until Tuesday night.

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