Business leader calls on government to pay overdue bills

Confindustria chief Squinzi estimates 130-140 billion euro hole

Business leader calls on government to pay overdue bills

Varese, May 27 - The head of Italian industrialists' association Confindustria called on Monday for the Italian government to start paying off the public administration's ballooning, overdue bills to relieve the credit crunch strangling Italian businesses. "We are in a precise and specific situation of credit crunch. To relieve businesses, the first thing that should be done is for the public administration to put its hands in its pocket book and pay its own debts," said Giorgio Squinzi, president of Confindustria. "We have calculated that businesses have lost 50 billion euros of credit over the last five years, but then Minister Zanonato made a correction and spoke of 60 billion," Squinzi added, making reference to Italian Economic Development Minister Flavio Zanonato. Squinzi also told of his "bafflement before the ex-economy minister (Vittorio Grilli)" when asked for the total bill of debts owed by public administration, "and we were given the response that they were doing an inventory, and expected to be furnished a complete picture in September". "If you ask me, the latest numbers to emerge, of 130-140 billion, are very close to the reality," Squinzi added, addressing an assembly of Confindustria members in the northern Italian town of Busto Arsizio. "A state that doesn't pay its own debts is not civilized. These are not grants, but services rendered," Squinzi concluded. Unblocking the public administration's payment of some 40 billion euros overdue to its suppliers was a goal set by the former technical government led by Mario Monti. Italy's former technical government said unblocking the payments - a maneuver proposed for much-needed economic stimulus in the recession-hit country - would raise Italy's 2013 budget deficit to 2.9%.

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