Italian PM vows to save 500 mln euros a year through reform

ROME, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Wednesday that a government constitutional reform of scrapping the Senate and other bodies will save state coffers 500 million euros (529.98 million U.S. dollars) a year.

"The way to erase 500 million euros in waste is to vote on Dec. 4," Renzi said in reference to a referendum to be held on Sunday, when Italy's voters will be asked whether they accept or reject the reform.

Renzi explained that under the reform, which has already been approved by parliament, the Upper House will be reduced from 315 to 100 seats, to be filled by regional representatives and city mayors.

Renzi pointed out that opposition to this reform is widespread, even from within the ranks of his own center-left Democratic Party (PD), because if it passes, many elected officials would see their monthly stipends reduced significantly. Future representatives would only be paid as much as the mayor of the capital of their region.

"With this system, the 100 senators will represent their home territories, not a political class," Renzi said.

The young reformist prime minister said Italy has the highest number of MPs in the European Union, and it is also the only country in which the upper and the lower house of parliament have equal powers. This means it can take years to get laws passed.

"We're original, it's true, but we're great at complicating things for ourselves," Renzi said. "It's as if Germany and France were running a 100-meter race, and we insisted on running a 110-meter steeplechase instead -- you'd have to be a truly great athlete to make it."

"The truth is that some politicians are trying to convince citizens to vote 'No' in order to preserve their privileges," Renzi said.

"It's a battle of citizens against the caste. Many will vote 'Yes,' even people who would never vote for me or my party, because they know this train won't be back for another 20 years," he added.

The prime minister also explained that the reform would cancel the current overlap between the jurisdictions of central government and Italy's 20 regions.

Renzi used the example of a number of scandals across Italy, in which municipal employees and public servants of all kinds were caught clocking in to work, only to spend the day shopping instead.

In response, government issued a decree calling for civil servants who clock in only to disappear from their workplace to be fired within 30 days. The decree, which went into effect in July this year, says managers and supervisors who turn a blind eye to such conduct are also liable to get fired.

However, the Constitutional Court earlier this week voided the decree, saying government must seek approval from regional governors in each case.

"If I want to sack a clock-in cheat, I have to ask permission from the Veneto governor," Renzi said. "I think it's madness".

The prime minister also said that while opponents of his reform argue that it should have been designed differently, action is better than paralysis.

"It's better to do something than to do nothing at all," Renzi said. "Why should we spend the coming years just complaining? I want to change things. Some say the reform is not perfect; I say it's better to take a step forward rather than remain at a standstill."

Renzi said: "I hope Italy will choose the future not the past. Nostalgia is beautiful, but hope is even more so."

[ Editor: 刘家铭 ]
 

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