Italy's Monti wins confidence vote over austerity

Mario Monti (file image) Mario Monti says plans for growth will follow the austerity measures

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has easily won a parliamentary confidence vote on his government's package of crucial austerity measures.

The Chamber of Deputies (lower house) backed the 33bn-euro (£27bn; $43bn) package of cuts and reforms by 495 votes to 88.

The package still has to be approved by the Senate (upper house).

Mr Monti, appointed in November, heads a government of unelected technocrats grappling with huge public debts.

They are trying to tackle a collapse in market confidence that put Italy at the heart of the eurozone debt crisis.

Crucial to the government's plans is the package of tax increases, spending cuts and pension reforms aimed at balancing Italy's budget by 2013.

However, analysts say rising borrowing costs and the prospect of a deepening recession still threaten to undermine the government's efforts.

Misgivings

On Thursday, Mr Monti said his government would move on to growth-boosting measures after the austerity bill was passed, Italy's Ansa news agency reported.

Mr Monti, a former EU commissioner, has broad support in parliament.

Although the two main parties - the centre-right PDL and the centre-left Democratic Party - have misgivings over parts of the bill, they cannot sabotage it for fear of unleashing economic catastrophe, analysts say.

Mr Monti's predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, said his PDL party would back the government out of a sense of responsibility, not because it agreed with the sacrifices being asked of Italians.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says there are many on the left who feel that the proposed austerity measures are unfair and that the poorest in society are being asked to bear too much.

On the right, some have protested against planned tax increases, our correspondent says.

He adds that Mr Monti softened the edges of the austerity package but more opposition can be expected as the sacrifices bite deeper.

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