Rome

Europe, conflict of interest, cuts, growth top Monti agenda

Caretaker PM offers agenda to parties he could lead

Europe, conflict of interest, cuts, growth top Monti agenda

Rome, December 24 - Boosting growth along with Europe, cutting taxes and political costs, and resolving the conflict of interest that has dogged public life since media magnate Silvio Berlusconi won power in 1994 were among the priorities set by caretaker premier Mario Monti in an agenda he posted on the Web Sunday after saying he might lead forces who endorse it in Italy's upcoming general election. Changing Italy, Reforming Europe was the title of the keenly awaited agenda posted on the specially created site www.agenda-Monti.it. It was accompanied by a letter to Italians in which the economist and former European commissioner, credited with saving Italy from a Greek-style crisis in a 13-month term dating from Berlusconi's enforced resignation in November 2011 to Berlusconi's withdrawal of support earlier this month, urged political parties to follow up on the structural reforms his emergency technocrat government achieved, including to the pension system and in two other areas where his moves were watered down: the labor market and deregulation. He also called for a radical overhaul of Italy's expensive political system and much-criticised electoral system as well as stiffer protection against misuse of public funds, in the wake of a string of scandals, in a manifesto whose slogan was 'Less Caste, Fewer Costs'. Here are the main points of the agenda, which also proposes a minimum wage and a tax on large portfolios of property and assets: - EUROPE: Monti underscores the need to build a "more integrated" European Union, "against all populism" and with "more solidarity" between stronger and weaker members. Italy "must fight for a more inter-governmental, more united Europe" and against members making moves "at various speeds". To count more in Europe and boost Rome's credibility, he stresses, "there is no need to bang the table". With this approach, he says, Italy can ask Europe for more "growth-oriented policies" after the austerity that is improving finances but deepening recessions in Greece, Spain, Italy and other peripheral members. - GROWTH: Growth cannot be achieved by increasing Italy's public debt, which at 126% of GDP is the second highest in the eurozone after Greece's. Monti reiterates the goal of balancing the budget in structural terms in 2013 and cutting debt by one twentieth per year starting in 2015. - TAXES: Cutting debt "makes it possible to cut taxes" on labour and business. Levies on large property and asset portfolios and luxury goods will help balance the books. - DEREGULATION: Monti, a pro-competition trust-buster during his time at the European commission, urges further moves to "intensify the opening of markets" and make the civil service more efficient by better-targeted spending. Spending reviews must become permanent. - BUSINESS: Negotiation of labour contracts must become "decentralised" and no longer confined to deals at the national level. Energy costs must be cut and firms' access to credit facilitated. The level of foreign investment in Italy must be raised to the EU average. - LABOUR: The Monti government's reforms to the labour market to make hiring and firing easier must be preserved, and improved by further simplification and concentrating on getting young people working, with incentives for employers who hire under-30s. - FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY: Monti envisages "minimum" benefits for job seekers or those who have lost their jobs as long as they take training courses. - ELECTORAL LAW: the "first act" of the next parliament must be a reform of the electoral law to allow voters to pick their MPs rather than voting candidates selected by party bosses. - 'THE CASTE': With the slogan, 'less caste, fewer costs,' Monti proposes a drastic reduction of public funding to parties and caucuses, with an obligation to have transparent budgets and a ceiling on private contributions. - TAX EVASION AND CORRUPTION: "Zero tolerance for corruption, tax evasion and off-the-books activities". Monti advocates stiffening laws on fraudulent accounting and beefing up punishment for bribery and corruption. The statute of limitations on these crimes should be shortened. - CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Monti calls for "more robust norms to prevent conflicts of interest" - STOPPING CRIMINALS FROM STANDING FOR OFFICE: One of the last laws passed by his government, preventing those with definitive convictions of two years or more from standing for office, must be strengthened with "more stringent" norms.

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