Italy Looks Set To Defy EU On Contested Budget Amid Midnight Deadline

People walk past the entrance of the London Stock Exchange in London

People walk past the entrance of the London Stock Exchange in London Britain. Aug 23 2018. REUTERS Peter NichollsMore

Last week the commission produced its own economic forecast, which contradicted Italy's predictions contained in its budget.

If member states agree to the sanctions, Rome could face fines of up to 0.2 percent of GDP - which for Italy is around €35 billion - or cuts to regional subsidises. The League won 17.4 percent of votes in the March elections, while Five Star got 32.7 percent.

The coalition had been given time to change its 2019 plans but insists an anti-austerity approach will help kickstart growth in the eurozone's third largest economy, and consequently reduce the public debt and deficit.

Rome has so far given no sign it will alter its budget, which foresees a deficit of 2.4% of gross domestic product next year - against 0.8% set by a previous government.

European Union commissioners are demanding the big spending budget be rewritten, saying that otherwise Italy's debt burden will plunge the euro zone into a financial crisis.

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"The true guardians of fiscal discipline will be, as usual, financial markets", he said.

"Italy's public debt-to-GDP ratio, at 131.2 percent in 2017, is the second largest in the European Union.and one of the largest in the world, (representing) an average burden of 37,000 euros per inhabitant", the European Commission wrote on October 23, calling the debt "an inter-generational burden weighing on the standard of living of future Italians".

A letter to Brussels being prepared by Economics Minister Giovanni Tria would outline plans to raise cash through the sale of secondary real estate, which Di Maio said would have an impact on Italy's stubbornly high public debt.

The source said the Treasury could reduce its GDP estimate for next year to convince Brussels that Italy would not go above a deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2019.

A demonstration has been called for the 8 December by Matteo Salvini to say "peacefully" to the "gentlemen of Brussels: let us work, live, and breathe".

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Italian 10-year bond yields jumped to 3.44 per cent heading towards a 10-week high of 3.461.

That view is shared by many economists, who warn Italy's coalition government is being overly optimistic. However, given that the Italian government is mostly populist, it will find it hard to pursue such important changes in budget.

The Fund wants budget reforms that are inclusive but also support the goal of reducing Italy's national debt, which at 130 per cent of national output is the second highest in the euro area after Greece.

Italy's rightwing populist government argues its planned budget will stoke the country's stagnant economy through a mix of generous welfare spending, tax cuts, and investments.

The Commission rejected Italy's fiscal plan for 2019 last month.

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