September 23, 2019 / 1:27 PM / 21 days ago

Italy raises debt ratios for 2015-2018, due to new rules on postal bonds

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s public debt last year amounted to 134.8% of gross domestic product, the Bank of Italy reported on Monday, revising up a previous estimate of 132.2% made in April.

The 2017 debt-to-GDP ratio was revised to 134.1% from 131.4%.

The latest data show that Italy’s debt, which is proportionally the highest in the euro zone after Greece’s, was little changed from 2015 to 2018.

The debt-to-GDP ratio was revised up for each of the four years, though the trend now shows a marginal decline from 135.3% in 2015 to 134.8% in 2018.

In absolute terms, 2018 debt was revised up by 58.3 billion euros to 2.38 trillion euros.

The upward revisions are due to new accounting criteria regarding the interest on postal bonds, the central bank said. That interest now counts in the public debt as it is accrued, rather than only when the bonds are cashed in.

The Treasury said in a statement that, while the level of the debt had been revised up, the new methodology “should contribute to a faster descent in the debt-to-GDP ratio from 2020-2024.”

Earlier on Monday, national statistics bureau ISTAT revised Italy’s gross domestic product and budget deficit data for 2018, which showed GDP growth of 0.8% and a budget deficit-to-GDP ratio of 2.2%.

Reporting by Gavin Jones, editing by Larry King

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