The Italian Finance Minister, Giovanni Tria, is convinced that his government and the European Commission agree on Italian government debt and government spending. Tria said that at the G20 ministerial conference in Fukuoka, Japan.

The European Commission threatens Rome with punitive measures because the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte would borrow and spend way too much money. But according to Tria, the government is not opposed to the applicable budget rules and a deal with the commission is likely. The director of the Italian Central Bank, Ignazio Visco, added that the country’s indebtedness was not a topic at the G20 conference.

Italy has an exceptionally high debt burden. It has reached 132 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), while the EU states that this should not exceed 60 percent. In the Netherlands, that percentage has fallen to more than 52 percent, partly thanks to the economic recovery in recent years.

But that doesn’t happen in Italy. Rome only foresees a growth of 0.2 percent this year. The government wants to smooth the economy with extra spending. The budget deficit would then amount to 2.4 percent of GDP. That is the percentage that the European Commission already angrily rejected last year as contrary to the rules. Tria estimated in Japan on Sunday that the deficit would be somewhere around 2.1 or 2.2 percent of GDP.

The 70-year-old Tria is an economics professor who, like Prime Minister Conte, has been brought in as a moderating figure in the coalition government of two radical parties. These are the right-wing populist Lega and the Eurosceptic protest party M5S (Five Star Movement). The leaders of the two, Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, rarely agree, but they both think that the government needs to pump more money into the economy to get it going. They denounce the budget rules and cuts that Brussels is imposing.

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