October 23, 2019 / 11:56 AM / 22 days ago

Italy economy minister says debt reduction can only be gradual

FILE PHOTO - Italian Finance and Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri talks to media before the informal meeting of ministers for economic and financial affairs (ECOFIN) and Eurogroup in Helsinki, Finland, 13 September 2019. Lehtikuva/Martti Kainulainen via REUTERS

ORVIETO, Italy (Reuters) - Italy can lower its 2.3 trillion euro ($2.6 trillion) public debt only gradually, the economy minister said, after the EU Commission asked for details on Rome’s debt reduction path.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said Brussels was not challenging the draft budget submitted by Italy earlier this month, but simply asking for clarifications.

“Italy has made use in the past of (so-called EU) ‘flexibility’ on public finances because public debt must be lowered but the reduction can only be gradual and sustainable to be credible,” he said on the sideline of a campaign event ahead of regional elections in the central Umbria region.

Reporting by Stefano Bernabei, writing by Valentina Za

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