Letta defends record after 100 tumultuous days in power

Grand coalition hampered by divisions, in danger of collapsing

Letta defends record after 100 tumultuous days in power

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, August 6 - Premier Enrico Letta on Tuesday defended the record of his left-right coalition government after 100 tumultuous days in power, with some doubting whether the executive will make it to celebrate 200 days. The government is based on an unnatural alliance between traditional foes - Letta's own centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL). The administration has been hampered by internal divisions since it was sworn in in April to end two months of political deadlock following February's inconclusive general election. And it may be in danger of collapsing after a tax fraud verdict against Berlusconi was upheld by the supreme court last week. But the 46-year-old premier stressed that the government can and must keep working, with economic data suggesting the country is close to emerging from its longest recession in over two decades. "We 100 days behind us, ahead we have the responsibility to keep going with even more determination to do well," Letta wrote in a report on his first 100 days in power. "The signs are all there and they say we are a step away from reversing the trend and coming out of the darkest, most dramatic crisis today's generations have ever experienced. "We have to give our all... The Italian people understand that there's no alternative, not to this government, but to the need to put aside opposing positions to have stability. "We'll move forward with determination, concentrating more and more on policy, precisely when political clashes seem to get white hot. "We knew it would not be easy from the start. Twenty years of tough, muscular confrontation have left their marks and injuries. "But the government's measures and the patient, incisive work in parliament show that it's possible to work for Italy, thinking of the future". Letta has been criticised by many, including some fellow PD members, for the way his government has put off some important decisions. Cited as an example is the decision to postpone the June payment of a property tax Berlusconi has demanded be scrapped and a 1% rise in value added tax (VAT) that had been scheduled to come into effect in July. But the premier pledged Monday that these issues will be resolved by the end of the month, as the Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni seeks to find ways to scrap IMU, the property tax, an avert the 1% rise in VAT without reneging on Italy's commitment to the EU to keep its deficit-to-GDP ratio under 3%. Letta can also point to some achievements. His government has survived two confidence votes in parliament and presented a decree of measures to promote growth, which frees up around three billion euros for public works projects this year. Another decree, which is being examined in the Lower House after approval last month in the Senate, contains measures aimed at combatting rampant youth unemployment in Italy. Italy's jobless rate is over 12% and around four in 10 young people aged 15-24 are out of work. The package is aimed at the under-30s worse equipped to face up to the effects of the recession, such as those without a high-school diploma, those living alone and those who have another person depending on them. The government has also presented legislation to phase out public funding of political parties over three years. But Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, is not impressed. "Letta's 100 days (in power) have produced nothing at a time when immediate, strong action was needed to revive the economy, protect families in hardship and negotiate our position in Europe," Grillo said in his blog, which gave life to the Internet-based M5S in 2009. "Before the government was sworn in there was talk of the need to work fast, as fast as possible," said the comedian-turned-polician, whose movement captured around a quarter of the vote in February. "Then there was silence, delay, announcements".

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