Monti expects to see Italy recovery signs within months

Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:14pm EDT
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CERNOBBIO, Italy (Reuters) - Prime Minister Mario Monti said on Saturday he expected it would be only a few more months before signs of recovery start to emerge in the recession-hit Italian economy.

Addressing an agriculture conference in northern Italy, Monti spoke of "a few months, just a few months I hope that we have left before we start seeing clear signs of recovery."

Italy has been in a recession since the middle of last year, weighed down by austerity measures passed by Monti's government to cut the country's massive debt, including tax hikes, spending cuts and a pension overhaul.

Unemployment has risen to its highest since monthly records began in 2004 and unions are locked in growing disputes with companies over plant closures and layoffs.

Monti defended the austerity measures, and said he believed his government would be remembered for having helped Italy pull itself out of a deep economic crisis without needing to resort to external aid.

"I hope that one day we can say that thanks to us Italy was not colonized by Europe and it maintained its own dignified sovereignty in an increasingly integrated Europe," he said.

He spoke at the same time as thousands of trade unionists were holding a rally in Rome against the government's spending cuts and rising unemployment, at which union leader Susanna Camusso said his austerity policies had failed.

Monti replaced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last November when Italy's bond yields were soaring and the country came close to a Greek-style debt disaster.

This week the Treasury raised a record-breaking 18 billion euros through a retail bond sale, which Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli hailed as a sign of a turnaround in perceptions of the country's debt.   Continued...

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti attends a news conference at the end of the second session of a two-day European Union leaders summit in Brussels October 19, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Vidal