(see related story on GDP data) Rome, August 6 - Italy's longest and deepest recession in more than 20 years appears to be coming to an end, Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni said Tuesday. In a television interview hours after the most recent data on the economy was released, the minister was asked if the recession is over. ''I think so,'' Saccomanni told a Sky TG24 television program. ''I think that in this quarter and the fourth quarter, the economy will enter into recovery - we are technically in what is called the turning point of the (economic) cycle,'' he said. Earlier, national statistical agency Istat reported that Italy's gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 0.2% in the second quarter, less than what analysts were forecasting and considerably less than the 0.6% loss reported in the first three months of year. The fact that the economy outperformed expectations is important, Saccomanni said. And if that continues, it will give the government more fiscal wiggle room in terms of managing public policies, added Saccomanni. ''I think if we can have a positive sign in the fourth quarter it will make it easier to manage the economy and public finance''. The GDP improvement suggests government stimulus measures have helped, the minister said, but warned that it will take some time before any improvements will be seen in lower employment figures. In a wide-ranging interview, Saccomanni also said that paying outstanding bills owed by the public sector to business remains a priority, adding that he hoped another 10 billion euros can be found. That would raise this year's payments to business to a total of 30 billion euros, a significant boost to the economy. With that, plus the 20-billion euros in payments slated for next year, ''then things can get better, I think this is a workable figure''.