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Italy’s minimum income scheme has helped 300,000 so far: government

Italy's outgoing government said on Wednesday that a new minimum income scheme launched at the start of the year is working, but needs to be beefed up further with additional resources.

Italy's minimum income scheme has helped 300,000 so far: government
A man sleeping rough in Rome, with a sign that says: "I'm hungry". Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has officially tendered his resignation after his centre-left government was defeated in the March 4th general election, but he is continuing to run day-to-day affairs until a new administration can be formed.

And presenting a report on how the so-called “inclusion scheme” or REI has performed so far, Gentiloni said that the monthly allowance for people in financial difficulty was actually working.

Under the REI scheme, payments range from €190 for a single person to €540 for households of six or more.

“Three months after its launch, we can say that the inclusion scheme works,” Gentiloni told a news briefing.

“We know that this is an important step, but we must continue by reinforcing it with new resources.”

READ ALSO: Number of Italians at risk of poverty reaches record high

Gentiloni said that some 316,000 people have have already benefitted from the REI. And from July, that number will be gradually expanded to eventually reach 2.5 million people. The government has earmarked €2 billion for funding in 2018.

In January, Italy's unemployment rate was 11 percent, according to figures from national statistics agency Istat, above the eurozone average of 8.6 percent. The jobless rate for the under-25s in Italy stood at 31.5 percent.

According to Istat, 4.7 million Italians were living in poverty in 2016, a nearly threefold increase from the 1.7 million recorded in 2006.

REI is similar to systems of income support – such as the RSA in France – that have long existed elsewhere in Europe but its introduction is a first for Italy.

READ ALSO: Italians demand M5S basic income – even though the party's not in power

It also has similarities to the basic income promised during the election campaign by the Five Star Movement (M5S), which became the largest party in Italy's hung parliament after the election.

Under the M5S proposal, €780 would be paid monthly to the unemployed, while those who each month earn less than that sum, considered the poverty line by Istat, will receive a top-up.

In all, it would benefit nine million people, a much larger base than the one the current government is targeting with REI.

National insurance agency INPS claims that the M5S's measure would cost Italy €35-38 billion, more than double the €14.9 billion estimated by Istat.

READ ALSO:

ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard- right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Early elections were called after Mario Draghi’s government collapsed in late July. Draghi’s government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.

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