Italy's Monti: No new budget measures necessary

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By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press

MILAN (AP) — Italy does not need any new budget measures to confront the sovereign debt crisis, Premier Mario Monti said Friday even as he acknowledged his disappointment that Italian borrowing costs have continued to rise.

Italy's borrowing costs have risen steadily in recent weeks due to fears that the government will not be able to handle its high debt load. On Friday, the 10-year bond yield was up 0.23 percentage points at 6.13 percent. The higher borrowing costs raise pressure on Italy, which needs to keep going to the markets to pay down its public debt of €1.9 trillion ($2.3 trillion) representing 120 percent of GDP.

"We have always thought that the structural reform measures and budget consolidation would have positive effects on growth and employment, but slowly," Monti said, adding that it will take time for the positive effects to become evident.

He said it was preferable for Italy to resolve its own fiscal issues and to avoid a bailout.

The Confindustria industrial lobby estimates Italy has burned up 0.9 percent of GDP and done away with 144,000 jobs during the debt crisis by paying higher interest rates when raising money in bond markets.

Monti took issue with reports in right-wing media that suggested his government, appointed in November to help Italy avoid becoming engulfed by the debt crisis, had not had any impact on Italian borrowing costs. He pointed out that borrowing costs decreased after his first measures last December, then slowed, before again growing.

He noted that the difference between interest rates paid by Italy and Germany on benchmark 10-year bonds had grown from 160 basis points in November 2010 to 574 basis points in November 2011, when he took over. Now, he said, it was 490 points — acknowledging that it was less than he would have liked.

Monti spoke to reporters in Rome following a Cabinet meeting where the government agreed, among other things, on parameters for a long-delayed paring down of the number of Italian provinces.

While Monti is under continual pressure by critics in Italy, he continues to enjoy the support of his partners in Europe.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted Friday by the French newspaper Le Figaro as say that Monti was "a chance for Italy and for Europe."

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