Rome

Expo 2015's priority status shown in cuts exemption

'It's the heart of Italy's recovery' says Premier Letta

Expo 2015's priority status shown in cuts exemption

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, May 15 - In its efforts to pull the country out of recession, the government has made no secret that Expo Milan 2015 is "the heart of Italy's recovery," as Premier Enrico Letta recently put it. This week, lawmakers proved this was no empty praise when they exempted Expo from 40 million euros in possible cuts. The exemption, which also applies to education and research spending, was contained in an amendment to a decree on a plan to reimburse money that the Italian state owes private-sector firms. The decree features budget cuts of 570 million euros that could become effective in 2015. The hope is that the debt payback will help jump-start growth in the eurozone's third-largest economy, which has been mired in recession for almost two years. The government also sees Expo as a potential recovery springboard, not to mention a showcase for Italian goods and culture to the 128 countries so far registered to attend. Last week, Letta called Expo an opportunity for national growth, and said that a little "visionary madness" was needed to make it and an Italian economic recovery a success. "For the government, it's a true and real priority," he told journalists in a press conference. Letta said the food-themed Expo, called Feed the Planet: Energy for Life, will act as "a hub" for Italian economic turnaround. According to the Expo, 850 million people worldwide are currently without sufficient food, and in order to fix that countries must turn to sustainable development, global cooperation and new technology. Countries must also waste less, organizers stress. The event runs for six months between May 1 to October 31, 2015, showcasing goods, culture and innovation in a non-commercial setting. Former American vice-president and Nobel Peace Laureate Al Gore has endorsed the event, calling the theme "very solid" and designed to have "zero (negative) environmental impact". Preparations for the Milan Expo are underway on a 1.1-million-square-meter site. The event is expected to generate millions of euros for Italy's business capital. With just two countries to go before reaching the 130-mark, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome' and Principe were the latest countries to sign on to Expo 2015 last month. Italy last hosted a World's Fair in 1992 with a Christopher Columbus theme in Genoa, the explorer's hometown. The last fair was held the summer of 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea.

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