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New Italy PM wins confidence vote, vows 'radical change'

Update: February, 25/2014 - 11:00

ROME – Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called for a "radical and immediate change" in recession-hit Italy as he outlined his new government's reform agenda before winning a crucial confidence vote in the Senate early on Tuesday.

In an energetic and impassioned speech to parliament, Italy's youngest-ever premier reiterated plans for rapidly overhauling the tax system, jobs market and public administration in a bid to tackle the country's ailing economy.

"If we lose this challenge the fault will be mine alone. No-one has an alibi anymore," the 39-year-old said as his fiery speech prompted jeers and insults from opposition benches.

"This is an Italy of possibilities, an Italy of fundamental change," he said, stressing the "urgency" of implementing reforms in "a rusty country... gripped by anxiety."

Renzi, who grasped power after helping oust his predecessor Enrico Letta over failures to do enough to boost a flagging economy, later won the vote of confidence, with 169 votes in favour and 139 against, according to Senate speaker Pietro Grasso.

In his speech, he pledged to review unemployment benefits, establish a guarantee fund for small companies and comprehensively reform the justice system.

He also promised to cut the tax burden by a double-digit figure within months and pay off public administration debts.

The initial reaction from investors appeared positive, with Milan's FTSE stock market closing up 0.48 per cent after Renzi's speech.

But small business association Confartigianato wondered where the prime minister hoped to find the money for the reforms, with its head Giorgio Merletti saying "a couple of quick sums show that there is 100 billion euros ($137 billion) to find immediately." AFP.

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