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POLITICS

Italy’s Renzi ‘to make statement around midnight’

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will make a statement "around midnight" - an hour after polls close in a referendum on which he has staked his future, sources close to the government said on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi 'to make statement around midnight'
Renzi casting his vote earlier on Sunday. Photo: Claudio Giovanni/AFP

Renzi, 41, has vowed to resign if he loses the vote on changes to the constitution aimed at streamlining parliament and transferring powers from the regions to the national government.

The sources said Renzi would be making the statement at his official residence, the Palazzo Chigi, in Rome after having voted earlier Sunday in Tuscany, where he has kept his family home during his two years and nearly tens months in power.

Opponents say the changes proposed by Renzi will remove important checks on executive power.

Opinion polls published up to November 18th, after which they were prohibited under ballot rules, pointed to Renzi losing the referendum, although the high number of undecided voters gave him hope of turning that around.

The only certain thing about Sunday's vote was that the turnout was high by Italian standards with 57.24 percent of the electorate having cast ballots by 7 p.m (1800 GMT), four hours before the closure of the urns.

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COST OF LIVING

Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

Italy on Thursday night approved new measures worth around 17 billion euros ($17.4 billion) to help families and businesses manage the surging cost of fuel and essentials.

Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

As expected, the final version of the ‘aiuti-bis‘ decree provides another extension to the existing 30-cents-per-litre cut to fuel duty, more help with energy bills, and a tax cut for workers earning under 35,000 euros a year.

The package also includes further funding for mental health treatment: there’s another 15 million euros for the recently-introduced ‘psychologist bonus’ on top of the 10 million previously allocated.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

There are also measures to help agricultural firms deal with this year’s severe drought.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described the new package as an intervention “of incredible proportions”, which corresponds to “a little over 2 points of national GDP”.

However, he said, no changes were made to the national budget to pave the way for the new measures.

The measures will be funded with 14.3 billion euros in higher-than-expected tax revenues this year, and the deployment of funds that have not yet been spent, Economy and Finance Minister Daniele Franco said.

Italy has already budgeted some 35 billion euros since January to soften the impact of rising fuel costs.

The decree is one of the last major acts by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi before an early general election next month.

Elections are set for September 25th but the former European Central Bank chief is staying on in a caretaker role until a new government is formed.

Draghi said the Italian economy was performing better than expected, citing the International Monetary Fund’s estimate of three percent for 2022.

“They say that in 2022, we will grow more than Germany, than France, than the average of the eurozone, more than the United States,” he told a press conference.

But he noted the many problems facing Italy, “from the high cost of living, to inflation, the rise in energy prices and other materials, to supply difficulties, widespread insecurity and, of course political insecurity”.

Inflation hit 8 percent in Italy in June – the most severe spike the country has experienced since 1976.

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