Italy plans gradual liberalization to boost economy

Sun Jan 8, 2012 8:37am EST
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By Catherine Hornby

ROME (Reuters) - Italy plans gradual liberalizations in sectors ranging from energy to professional services to revive its ailing economy, the industry minister said on Sunday, ahead of meetings with European partners to discuss ways to stem the debt crisis.

The liberalizations, which include moves to boost competition and relax some regulation in the euro zone's third largest economy, will be included in a new set of growth-enhancing reforms due to follow the 33 billion euro austerity plan passed last month.

"We will proceed in every sector: gas, energy, commerce, transport, the professions. Each step will go towards creating more sustainable growth," Industry Minister Corrado Passera said in an interview with the Corriere Della Sera daily.

He said the measures would be introduced gradually each month and would be accompanied by reforms to open up markets and fight unfair advantages.

Italy has been at the centre of the debt crisis since last summer when its borrowing costs began to approach the levels which forced Ireland, Greece and Portugal to seek an international bailout.

As it faces a recession this year which will make it even more difficult to rein in public debt, the government led by Prime Minister Mario Monti is drawing up a set of "Grow Italy" measures aimed at making the sluggish economy more competitive.

Monti, a respected technocrat, is seeking a united response from euro zone countries to the bloc's debt crisis and aims to coordinate growth strategies. He has been warmly embraced by the French and German leaders since he took over from Silvio Berlusconi in November.

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