December 22, 2011
The Italian Senate on Thursday gave final approval to the country’s severe austerity budget and passed a vote of confidence in the newly appointed government of former banker Mario Monti.
The budget won overwhelming approval with a vote of 257 to 41.
The $43-billion “Save Italy” budget package was produced by Monti, who was recently appointed both prime minister and finance minister, and his cabinet of professional financiers, diplomats and professors. It is aimed at balancing the nation’s budget by 2013.
Its controversial measures of tax hikes and delayed pension payments were raucously contested in recent days by the opposition Northern League and Italy’s labor unions, who staged strikes and demonstrations in protest the spending cuts, pension reforms and changes to employment law.
Monti’s unelected government, which replaced Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition government just five weeks ago, has the support of a majority in Parliament, where there is broad acknowledgment that swift approval of drastic budget measures by year’s end was necessary to ease Italy’s massive $2.5-trillion debt.