ITALY - The tax rate on top managers’ so-called “golden pensions” - which can be as high as 516 euro a day - will be increased from three to four per cent, welfare minister Roberto Maroni has said.

The tax, which is used as solidarity contribution for other pensioners, would also be extended beyond 2006, a date previously set as end of the contribution period.

The Italian financial daily ‘Il sole 24 ore’ said the solidarity contribution might be paid until 2015 and would no longer be tax deductible in a bid to secure what Maroni was quoted as calling a “stable flow”.

Previously, Maroni’s Lega Nord party had called for an amendment that would lower the pensions’ threshold from 516 euro a day to 300, but the idea has been abandoned, press reports stated.

The welfare ministry was unavailable for comment.

But Maroni was reported to have stressed that in the centre-right coalition there was a “steel-like agreement” and that the pension reform bill, would be approved by the upper chamber of parliament next week.

Meanwhile the centre-left has said it is ready to hinder the bill as it is presented by the Labour Committee, which is currently amending it, to the whole senate.

“The intended pension reform is twisting the pension system without offering a lead or protection to anyone,” said Piero Fassino, spokesman for the Lista Prodi group.

Technically, the pension bill is a “delega” or delegated bill because the parliament delegates the government to make laws on a subject within a pre-established time frame and provided that pre-set conditions are respected.